Once More into the breach

Well finally I can see light at the end of the tunnel at work and actually have some time to blog. This will only be a quick one though as its late.

Tomorrow will mark a massive step in my big year as I attempt to kick start my enthusiasm for it, something that has taken a bit of a knock with work stress and long hours. Jo is away this weekend and everyone who I would normally see is busy doing various exciting things, so the stars seem to be pointing me towards heading out for my very first solo birding adventure. The Collins is packed, boots are clean and I have the Junco in my sights (one Jo hasn’t seen)

Wish me luck readers!!

Chris

Finally..

Hello Dear Readers,

 

After what seems like a month since I last did a proper post (oops, it actually is!) I suppose that I best start with the number of birds that I managed to see in January as a few of you are now demanding to know. In total, between January 1st and January 31st I saw 76 unique species of bird. I won’t get too birdy on you all (mainly as I will get something wrong and be corrected by Jo!) but here are my favourite birds of January and a little bit of a reason why.

  1. Bittern – This is the top of my list purely because some people can go years without seeing one, and the first time I go into a hide at Blashford Lakes there is one staring up at me, not only that, but when everyone thought that it had disappeared I looked to my right and it was sat out in the open trying to swallow an entire fish. One man commented to me that I may as well go and “retire from birding” as views won’t come better than that. (I sometimes feel like he was right and maybe I have peaked too early in my birding career
  2. Kingfisher – This would have been an epic spot on any day, but the fact that it came at the end of a disappointing walk around Fishlake Meadows made it even better. I know that Jo was amazed by my reaction to seeing them (two in one, just like a bus) but it really was like seeing a bird from a different country. You can’t describe just how bright the colours are, I managed to see three that day in total, and one more since, and they are still brilliant every time you see one.
  3. Greenshank – For all you birders out there this won’t be a particularly special sighting, indeed for Jo I’m sure that it wasn’t great, but, what makes it special for me was that Jo and I really worked together to identify it using the Collins Book (my copy that Jo subsequently dropped in the mud) it must have taken us about 10 minutes to finally confirm it, but it left me really happy that we were able to use skills that before January I had never used.
  4. Bearded Tits – Not only a funny name (you all know it is!) they also look wicked, also seeing Jo so happy to see a bird that she has been looking for for years made it extra special. We have pictures of them and just how close we were eating our lunch to them made it amazing.

I didn’t think that I would have made it to such a number in one month, especially my first, but its mainly down to Jo helping me and dragging me out. I have a feeling that the subsequent months won’t be so spectacular, however there are over 10,000 left in the world for me to see so fingers crossed!

I went birding with my friend Greg at the start of February. He has new eyes (lasered) so in order to get his monies worth we thought it a good idea to see what he could see. It was a strange day; I am definitely not an expert, and I never managed to get to the bottom of what Greg thought of it, I probably endlessly annoyed him with my banging on about certain birds (my highlight was a goldcrest) and the hardest part was missing Jo. This may sound soppy, however it is purely because we have a very unique bird sense of humour, we personify them, its hard to explain, imagine Walk On The Wild Side, with just birds, if you are very unlucky some of you may get to experince this some day. However Greg was definitely not on the same wave length! (Sorry Greg)

I think that birding with different people will be something that I will need to get to used to over the course of 2012 (any volunteers living in Hampshire are eagerly encouraged!) but part of me just wants to make it a joint effort, hopefully when work quietens down I will get back into the competition, the new binocular purchases that we both made today should help,  I am just struggling with identifying the differences in certain types (especially waders) however I have finally nailed my tit identification  (stop sniggering at the back) so that is a step forward!

More about todays trip (to WWT Slimbridge) will follow when it isn’t so late.

 

Chris

 

 

 

Hello Again…

Hi Guys,

Not going to lie I have been very absent from the blog for a long time, this is for numerous reasons but hopefully this should change now and if I talk nicely to Jo she might show me how to use this properly!

Just a quick entry to say that tomorrow is the first day that I will be ‘birding’ without Jo, this gives me mixed emotions. On one hand I am very excited to be venturing out on my own with Greg, I shall be the senior birder and I’m really hoping that he enjoys it and we can see some things that Jo won’t have, I have even dug out my Grandpa’s binoculars, yet I shall miss seeing things with Jo, but tomorrow is definitely all about #teamchris

I will be the first to admit that Jo taking the lead in the top 10 race has demotivated me a bit.I’m hoping that a different walk will kick start my enthusiasm again.

Next time I blog I will post my January score and hopefully provide some pictures that I have got.

Chris

Make Way For The King

Good Evening Readers,

I shall skip straight to Sunday as the rest of the week has been bird free due to a combination of work and also a trip to the Rugby yesterday to see my team get annihilated by Bath.

I am sure that some of you have seen that this weekend was the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, this is where the RPSB ask people to take one hour out of their time to sit and record how many different birds appear. Jo and I did it first thing this morning and it wasn’t a huge success compared to the normal visitors to their garden but it was the afternoon that has really made my birding year (I seem to be saying that every week at the moment)

After Jo finished her tax return (tax doesn’t have to be taxing, just boring) we ventured out to Fishlake Meadows, which is basically a very large watery place where birds chill out. It had been a pretty quiet walk (getting used to seeing buzzards now) and we were on the way back to the car when I saw a blue flash with wings fly past me, quickly followed by another one. It took me at least 3 seconds to comprehend what I was looking at as it looked like something that would be more at home in the Amazon.

Jo also managed to pick up these blue flashes and shouted the word that I have never been so excited to hear…KINGFISHER!!

TWO!! I shouted back, as I saw them disappear behind a tree.

I was so shocked and happy to have seen them, they are yet another bird ticked off of my top ten list (to be published this week) and puts me 3-0 up on Team Jo!

I literally stood there amazed for a good ten minutes hoping to get another view of them to no avail. I just wanted to properly be able to see it in all its glory. When I sensed that Jo had had enough of waiting for me to stop smiling and checking two branches we decided to walk back to the car, it was starting to get dark when all of a sudden there was yet ANOTHER blue flash, I managed to track it until it disappeared behind another tree (next time I’m bringing my chainsaw).

So, as I sit here now, yesterday I hadn’t seen a single Kingfisher and now I’ve seen three, that’s two firsts in two weeks, I’m going to be hard pushed to keep this discovery rate up! They are really up there as a spectacle to see, they just look so out of place and so vibrant and actually (as sad as this sounds) I still cannot believe that I have seen some!

Oh, and Jo, please don’t feel bad for being 3-0 down, you have seen more species including the Spanish Sparrow and are clearly going to win, you just might lose the race to 10!

See you soon readers!

Chris

 

P.S Kingfishers are amazing to view and if you ever hear of any in your area I would highly recommend it, give me a shout and I’ll come and chop any trees down first* so your view is not obscured!

 

*This tree comment is purely in jest and Chris does not support deforestation, so please do not write in with your complaints

I need help

Hello,

 

Its not yet 7am on a Wednesday morning, but I am wide awake. This is because of two things:

Firstly I have a had a very bad dream, one of those really real ones that you can’t forget about and secondly (and more worryingly) I have become just a tiny bit angry with one user of ‘Pinterest’ (A website where you “pin” your favourite pictures)

What have they done to annoy me? Well, Dear Reader, they have replied to my picture of a Buzzard sat on the ground with this phrase: “not a buzzard. some kind of bird of prey: a hawk or a falcon.”

There are numerous things that have annoyed me about her reply. She clearly doesn’t know what she is talking about for one. I would have taken the comment from someone who had clearly stated what said bird was, but no, her reply was vague and dismissive, I can only go with the fact that she posted at 4am our time which would indicate that she is American. (Just checked American Buzzards do look different) but also with the fact that it looks NOTHING like a blooming falcon! I will let her off the fact that it could ave been a hawk, however my main overriding annoyance is that it IS A FREAKING COMMON EUROPEAN BUZZARD. (see below)

This is now the second time that I have suffered this anger, and I need to learn how to control this, however I finish this post more annoyed at the fact that an American has just tried to slag off my post without doing their research, I think that I am getting a bit too protective about my birds

Chris

Once Bittern always amazed…

Decided that I better post whilst it is fresh in my memory,

This weekend was the best birding weekend I have ever had. ( I realise that this isn’t a massive claim as I have only had 3) As Jo has stated I was up for a nice early 7am wake up before getting to the lakes about 8am. In reality it involved a joint agreement to roll over and go back to sleep.

When we set off at 10ish we stopped off for Breakfast at Ringwood; an epic Bacon Roll with a Poached Egg which got me set and ready for the day ahead. We arrived at the lakes about 10.45 and settled down in the first hide that was occupied by two middle aged men muttering to each other with all the awkwardness of two teenagers on a first date. It was enjoyable to listen to but then I needed to settle down to some serious bird identification!

I must apologise to Jo here, I think that I must have asked her if the same type of bird was a ‘goldeneye’ at least 6 times, until I finally found one, the first bird off my top ten list! 1-0 Team Chris! We moved on to the various hides as the day went on but the main attraction was number two on my list the Bittern.

There was a buzz in the hide as soon as we walked in, people had just seen it, a moment of panic followed for me as firstly I didn’t understand where they had seen it, and secondly and much more troublesome… I had no idea what a Bittern looked like. Think needle in a haystack with other people who knew what they were doing and thats roughly were I was.

Then, we saw a rustling in the bush and a massive neck appeared. Its actually a pretty cool looking bird when its got its neck out. However I do think it looks a bit constipated when it is walking along, but that is probably just me!

What Jo neglected to mention is that it is me who spotted it for the second time. Everyone was looking at the spot where it had previously been, until I decided to look without the binoculars and spotted it stood in the open, the excitement that I shouted “THERE IT IS” still surprises me to this moment, however it sums up the genuine happiness that I got from seeing it again, its something that I never thought that I would experience when I started the year. Anyway, the result was that we all saw the Bittern looking in the reeds and pulling out a massive Perch which it took about 2 minutes to figure out just how to swallow the fish. The pictures that everyone took (except me) were very good, as you can see from Jo’s earlier post, there was even someone there who had birding business cards to hand out for when we wanted photos (i’m not even joking)

Anyway, the result was an excellent day with over 30 different species of birds seen, red polls and bramblings were a close two and three to the Bittern and the score currently stands at 2-0 to Team Chris.

In other news, I have purchased a waterproof notebook that apparently will even work underwater, not sure how true that is but i’ll give it a go. I will also be getting in to digiscoping soon, so some close up pics should follow. I can’t wait for next Sunday now, finally getting some proper enthusiasm, Greg, Jim and Toby watch out, your walks will follow soon!

Chris

Its been a long time, i shouldn’t have left you…

Hello readers,

I have not died of red wing overload (a common birdwatcher ailment) i have just been extremely busy with work and seeing family. Right, where to start…?

The red wings stayed for 2 days then buggered off, they didn’t fancy saying hi to Jo but were very happy to see me, result. I have seen no birds whilst travelling to work or indeed at the weekends, c’est la vie.

Two weeks ago, Jo and I went on an organised walk to see some red kites,  when we pulled up it felt like a really badly organised school trip but this time it was hard to figure out who was the teacher, we were quite obviously the pupils (i had the worlds smallest binoculars (error that keeps being repeated!) however, once things were kicked off by the walk leader this turned out to be one of the best birding experiences of my life.

The people on the walk were much more chilled than the people chasing the junco and were genuinely interested in any birds, this meant I didn’t feel stupid asking what the birds were that flew past, also i got to use other peoples scopes and got to actually see the birds (this has led to me looking for scopes on eBay daily) Seeing 70+ red kites just chilling and messing around was awesome, however I was more amazed by seeing a short eared owl just chilling on a post and a partridge that didn’t want to move in case it got eaten by it. Although we still reduced the average age by at least 10 years there were still at least 7 other women to go with the 30 men…

We saw a load of other birds, however it has been that long that I cannot really remember what they were, so this is where I really really need to get up to speed with writing them down (waterproof notebook after payday I think!) Last week and weekend were a write off, due to a visit from my brother and sister in law, however the golf course (somewhere Jo won’t be) on Sunday morning provided me with a green woodpecker and another unknown bird.

I am going to have to rely on weekend trips in order to get a good number of birds, and really do need to get back in to it.

I must also confess that I am now a fully signed up member of the RSPB, mainly for the free gift, however it also means that I get to go to all the RSPB reserves for free at the same time as helping keep the birds going so that I can actually spot them.

I apologise for the lack of humour in todays blog, I will be back on form with my next one, football (a hard fought 0-0 draw) has taken it out of me and I am genuinely annoyedIi have forgotten birds, I fear that I really am taking this too seriously….

Chris

P.S Sarah, i am disappointed that you are team Jo despite me provding you with the motivation, i am consoled however, by -the fact that members of “Team Chris” are having T-Shirts made up displaying their affiliation, so i’m sure that I will get over it and I would still love for you to come on a walk with Jo and I xx

Update

Having had in my mind all day that i was going to gut my room and tidy it properly then post properly about the first weekend, i stupidly decided to go for a run at 7pm. If i am honest, this was as a result of eating a lot of rubbish all day (what is it about winter that brings that desire for fatty foods?!) and needed to not feel like a fat slob.

So, having spent 3 miles doing my best impersonation of a horse with all the cheek puffing, i have no energy to blog about what was a fantastic weekend birding (never thought i’d say that in my lifetime) so, please be patient and on Wednesday i shall fill you in on the weekend, in the meantime, Jo shall be walking in the park at lunch whilst i am trying to organise the office (theres no justice in the world!)

 

Oh and yes, short ear owls are freaking awesome!

 

Chris

Wish Me Luck…

Right dear readers, tomorrow is the day when i am officially kicking off the big year. The Man Flu has now pretty much gone, apart from a cough that makes me sound like i am smoking 60 cigarettes a day (hope that doesn’t scare the birds away) and it is time to get out and get at them.

As Jo rightly stated below, i did indeed cock up with the identification of the bloody pigeons. However, i am happy to report that since the post i have now spotted both another wood pigeon and a feral pigeon, i apologise to any “proper” birders for the silly error, i can only assure you that it WON’T be the last this year.

I arrived home to MASSIVE news, the red wings that were seen last year in my garden have apparently returned to aid my list, i am now putting my house on lockdown to Josie, so she will not be able to claim to have seen them and i will at least have one bird that will not be on her list, i also think this should count as double as it has flown all the way from Scandinavia just to sit in my tree with its mates.

In other news, i am slowly letting other people know that i am participating in birdwatching, this is a touchy subject for me as i know that there is a lot of negative press of the bird watching community, however the feedback has generally been positive, apart from the odd mutter of “freak” and “you’re doing what?!” In fact i am actually getting offers of people who want to come out on walks with me, i am massively indebted to all of you.

Off out to get some new walking boots in the morning before hitting the Hampshire Ornithological Society walk with Josie to see some red kites come in to roost, fingers crossed.

I must also apologise here for telling Jo to “F**k Off” when she told me all the birds that she had seen during her lunch breaks, it was an over reaction, but made me realise just how badly i want to win.. roll on the rest of 2012!

Chris