Everyday birding

I may have been AWOL from the blog and not out for any proper birding recently, but I have been enjoying the everyday birding- the way you enjoy the birds that are around us every day. For Chris and I, the only outdoor space we have in our new abode is a little balcony on which we’ve got a couple of pots filled with violas. From our 3rd floor flat, although we look out over the city and can see a lot of greenery, the only birds we can not only see but also identify are the Magpies, Wood Pigeons and occasional Crows which settle on the nearby lawns and rooftops.

My day-to-day birding mainly revolves around my walk to and from work. A few Blackbirds digging for worms on the lawns outside the flat, which are constantly home to a cluster of grazing Wood Pigeons. On a daily basis I can hear Coal Tit, Greenfinch and Goldfinch as I leave the house, but always too far away to get a proper view. Although my walk is along a fairly main road, it is quite heavily vegetated amongst the houses, and the birdsong is really hard to miss- Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Blackbirds by the bucketload (but such a lovely song), Goldfinch, Long-Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw all keep me company on my daily commute.

Birding though, is a joy which can be taken anywhere. A birder makes any journey an opportunity to eke out the local birds- I see cheerful Pied Wagtails from a particular meeting room at work, bobbing along a nearby roof, always hear a Wren singing away outside the office, and over the past  few months there has been a glorious Goldfinch roost tweedling away from the treetops by the office at the end of a day.

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Once you’re tuned in to looking and listening to birds, there are no end of birds to be found. I spied this Lesser Black-Backed Gull from the South Bank Thames Path when I was in London for work recently. Always looking, always finding.

If its not something you do already, making birds an everyday part of your life brings a little more joy to your day.

Jo

Back in the birdwatching game?

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Firstly, let me apologise for the space of time we’ve both been incognito for on the blog. Once again, life has got in the way, and its been far too long. Life has also gotten in the way of our getting out and about recently, so there aren’t many birdy tales of recent months to fill you all in on. However, we have a HUGE backlog of adventures from last year, which I am slowly going to work my way through as we have some beautiful photographs and interesting tales to share.

This weekend has not yielded any birdy outings I’m afraid, as I’ve been hit pretty badly by an ongoing cold (which is hopefully being given the boot now I’ve got some antibiotics in the system), but hopefully my infection will have cleared in time for a bank holiday outing of some sort next weekend.

For now, I’ll have to keep my birding to the very persistent coal tit which I can hear in the conifers outside our flat every morning without fail and hope to be back out there very soon.

Why now?‘ I hear you ask as to getting back to the blog? Well, I’ve seen a challenge going around the blogosphere to blog every day in May. So, that gives me 2 remaining days to get prepped! I think every day on this blog is a challenge, so I’m aiming for 2 posts a week here on NYAB and have set up a new (more varied) lifestyle blog, Tales from the Finch’s Beak which can be found over here. If you want to join me, this will be a bit of everything that makes me smile day to day and hopefully a chance to showcase and get back into my photography. Looking forward to the journey and over on my new blog I will be posting on a daily basis- please hold me to account– for all of May (eekk!). And I am sure there will continue to be a few bird related posts on there for good measure- don’t want to stray too far.

Looking forward to being back in touch.

Jo

Catch up #2- February 2012

Moving swiftly on to February, the month started with a planned trip to Slimbridge being postponed due to snow. Twice.

Undeterred, we continued to bird but kept things local including this snowy walk. Gosh, I love winter.

Somehow, through the blog our birdy obsession became contagious and my friend Sarah and I (go team Jo!) made a little trip over to Pulborough Brooks in Sussex where (I think) she caught the bug. I also got up close and personal with a Water Rail, but that’s a story that has already been covered…

We FINALLY made it, third time lucky, to WWT SLimbridge where we purchased some shiny new binoculars, I got very excited about grazing flocks of Wigeon (correct plural for a group of Wigeon anyone?), we absolutely froze in the Zeiss hide where every bird seemed to elude us (seriously, seriously quiet), but the day was made better by a good old fashioned Eider Duck. Happy days.

In case you don’t know, Eiders have THE best noise EVER. Seriously. If you don’t know, you can listen here if you can stand the musical soundtrack. Just don’t waste away too many hours imitating that amazing ooooohhhhhh. But if you do, a big high five and welcome to mine and Chris’s crazy world. Also whilst searching for good Eider noises the RSPB website has informed me that they are the UK’s heaviest duck and also ‘highly gregarious’. What a description.

February also saw us make a trip to the Hawk Conservancy for Chris to enjoy his birrthday pressie of an Owl Experience where he got to fly all sorts of owls. Whilst he was off having lots of Owl related fun, I spent my time around the park seeing the other residents, like the young Bald Eagle above. What a stare. He also looks like he has very angry yellow eyebrows, but that might just be me.

And, not forgetting that more common garden birds can be just as beautiful. Blackbirds are my ABSOLUTE favourite bird of all time. I could spend all day watching them. Just look at the Mrs B above, so much character and a lovely song to boot. I guess birds like this have been the common denominator throughout the year.

Hope you’re enjoying the catch up posts. I’m definitely enjoying recalling our year so far.

Jo x

Catch up #1- January 2012

So, in true birdy style, we kicked the year off with a real birding fest. Keen to out bird one another, we really got off to a flying (*excuse the pun*) start to 2012. My highlights:

Keen to out bird Chris, I started a new habit of getting out and walking more after work. This is something I really must get back into, its surprisingly refreshing of an evening. I had stuck really well to one of my new year’s resolutions (to get outside more) for about the first half of the year, then other parts of my life (like a big office move followed by new job applications, interviews and preparation) took over. Now I’m more settled this is something I fully intend to get back into as I love being outside so much. It really makes me feel at peace with myself and means I really start to appreciate the world around me more. I am so lucky to live near so many beautiful places but I just don’t get out and see them as much as I should.

I discovered a new love for one place in particular- Farlington Marshes. The photograph above does not do the view justice, even on a windy and cold day it is one of my favourite places to be. I love being by the sea, and being here in winter, full of waders and wildfowl, is a real treat. Simple pleasures.

My bird obsession took to new heights- I took this photo whilst walking to the Southampton offices at my old job!

A very successful trip to Blashford resulted in this amazing Bittern sighting, right in front of the hide. A definite highlight of the year so far.

Chris started to take the big year seriously by investing in a true birder’s essential (although I still prefer my pretty Rob Ryan notebook any day) a waterproof notebook!

I successfully (and without Chris…oops) twitched the infamous Spanish Sparrow in Calshot, Hampshire. Now as much as I think your usual House Sparrow is a real beaut and definitely under-rated, this guy was a stunner.

That’s my January highlights in a nutshell. Check the archives on the blog if you’re after further info.

Jo x

Catching up

Well, its been quite a while, so I think before I come on to what we’ve been doing really recently, it only seems fair to have a bit of a catch up as to what we’d been up to for the rest of the year. Here goes, prepare yourself over the coming days for a little refresher from me on 2012 through the NYAB eyes…

In case you’re wondering, the beautiful sculpture above is at the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover. If you’ve not been before it is well worth a trip. Full of childhood memories for me (RIP Lucy the Kestrel) I’d say its a bit of a must for any bird lover like myself. Before we went I don’t think Chris was that convinced but even before our big year (and thus his subsequent birding obsession) he loved it.

More soon,

Jo

Back to blogging!

Eek. A quick look at the blog shows me my last entry was on 22nd May. Oh dear, nearly a whole 6 months without an update, I do apologise.

I can assure you that as much as we have both been crazy busy, we have been out and about a fair bit, and I have a huge mental stash (and camera full of photos) of trips to blog about before they become any more of a distant memory. Until I get some proper posts up over the weekend, this is a bit of a holding post to say we’re back and what a lovely time of year to get back out there!

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Thanks for sticking with us,

Jo x

Birdfair bonanza

Hello all- it has been far too long.

Just a quick post tonight to promise that we are back and after a weekend at Birdfair, our birding passion has been reignited. I suppose one of the benefits of not blogging for so long is that at least we now have a lot to tell you all about- right back to April needs a proper update really. For those of you who don’t know- a description I’ve read somewhere (which will give you some idea) is ‘Glastonbury for Birdwatchers’…

Well this weekend turned out to be the hottest few days of the year so far, and the two of us spent it dripping in sweat whilst traipsing from marquee to marquee. Were we mad? Probably. Was it worth it? Most definitely, although we now need to win the lottery to spend the next decade touring the world to go and see all the amazing species we got a glimpse of at the various travel stands. Top of the list is the Galapagos, although we’ll need to save for quite some time for that trip. Chris and I sat in on several lectures over the 2 days we were there, but for me the talk by Andy Tucker of Naturetrek made me want to head to Galapagos right away. See why for yourselves- just amazing! I just cannot imagine being so close to so many amazing species- Galapagos Tortoise, Galapagos Sea Lion, Magnificent Frigatebird, Blue footed Booby, Sea Iguana, Waved Albatross- the list goes on and on. I have never wanted to go somewhere so much.

Blue-footed Booby, taken in the galapagos isla...

Blue-footed Booby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata...

Waved Albatross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Galapagos lecture was swiftly followed by another, this time on the Russian Far East, by Chris Collins. Chris has a real fascination with Russia and I am totally captivated by Spoon-billed Sandpiper– possibly the most beautiful wader ever? The talk guided us through species after species with particularly amazing auks- Tufted Puffins, Horned Puffin, Crested Auklet. I also discovered an amazing animal that I had never even seen before- Ribbon Seal.

Ribbon seal

Ribbon seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The marquees were just filled with companies or tourist boards offering birding in all manner of far flung (and closer to home) adventures, and it was absolutely overwhelming. There are so many places I would love to explore, and aside from the Galapagos Islands, I am totally drawn to the Azores, Spain’s Raptors, migration through Israel and in the UK, a trip to Skomer is going to be a must before the year is out.

Finally on the travel front, I do not know anyone who doesn’t love Owls. Chris and I have a massive soft spot for Owls, so when we went to hear David Lindo, The Urban Birder speak at Portsmouth RSPB Local Group a few weeks back and he briefly mentioned Serbia, and in particular Kikinda, we were sold. This town is the Long-eared Owl capital of the world, with up to 750 birds coming together in daytime roosts. At Birdfair, David’s talk was just about Serbia and I think a trip there in 2013 may well be on the cards.

 

More to come later in the week about the rest of our bird highlights- organisations, charities, books, celebrity spotting (yes, Bill Oddie!!). In the mean time, they may not be anything special, but how about a cheeky pair of Herring Gulls to end with:

 

 

Back soon- enjoy the sunshine,

 

Jo

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Birdtrail 2012

Today has seen me hanging out in a New Forest car park for most of the day. Birdtrail is an annual event organised by a variety of local bird related organisations including RSPB, Hampshire Ornithological Society and the local Wildlife Trust. Its essentially a day out for children which takes the form of a bird race, where each team needs to tick off as many birds as they can, topped off with a results ceremony at the end. I’ve got involved as a HOS volunteer and have been manning the Start point as teams begin and return from their trail. Along the way are activities as well as quizzes at the start point. All in all a brillant idea, I’m just jealous they didn’t have this when I was a YOC youngster. It is fantastic to see so many children who are such enthusiastic birders taking part and wanting to win. I hope that as many of them continue their hobby through their teens. I know birding isn’t the coolest of hobbies, but it is a skill that sticks with you for life. I’m glad I’ve now come back to it, but wish I hadn’t left the birding community for all those years in between.

Whilst the winning team’s best bird was a Hawfinch, the firecrest I watched bobbing about underneath a bench was my highlight, lovely.

Jo

First things first

Wow, sorry for the wait. Its already 14 days into May and I’ve still not updated you all on my March figures, I’m surprised you’ve all survived the suspense! As it’s been so long, to put things in perspective, by the end of February, my year total was up to 104, with a massive 85 of these seen in January. If you’ve been checking out my yearlist at all, you may have noticed that by the end of March a couple of migrants such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap had crept onto the list.

For non-birding readers (or those just beginning- hello Sarah!), I feel I ought to update you a little on the birdwatching year. Winter is a great time of year for birding, as a lot of birds migrate here to survive the winter in a warmer(!) climate. This may seem mad when you think about some of our summer migrants such as Cuckoos, which travel to Africa for a warmer winter, but when you consider that our winter visitors may have come from Scandinavia, Russia or Iceland, you can understand how Britain may appeal as being warm to them. Because of these influxes, winter is an exciting time of year for birdwatching, and my mission for the first few months of the year had been to catch up with as many winter visitors as I could. In theory, this should mean that by the time the winter months of 2012 arrive I should be ahead of Chris in our year-lists and can concentrate specifically on species that I missed at the start of the year. This may be very organised and some may even say tactical or obsessive, but without taking this seriously, Chris is likely to beat me in enthusiasm alone so I need all I can to stay ahead.

Moving on through the seasons, spring heralds a different kind of birding. Spring migrants who have spent their winters somewhere warmer start to appear, and this often brings an influx of slightly peculiar and unexpected birds. This in a way is one of the advantages of being in the south, as it means that I get to see migrants before they’ve made it to the rest of the country. Whilst Hampshire isn’t well known for turning up a lot of unusual visitors with spring migration, the periphery of the country tends to be where these kind of birds turn up. Places like Norfolk, the Scilly Isles, Cornwall and (more locally) the Isle of Wight tend to get exciting rarities more often than other parts of the country. Basically, if you’re a bird flying in from the continent or Africa, think of the first places you would be likely to hit land for a breather, and these are the places that will be good for rarities. Racing around to see unusual birds at this time of year is a different type of birding to that which I enjoy, but the spring months are a twitcher’s paradise.

Along with the odd rarity, this is a lovely time of year to be a birder of any sort, and I for one love nothing more than the suspense of waiting to see the first Swallow and then Swift of the year or hear the first Chiffchaff, Cuckoo or Nightingale. It’s lovely to know which species you are expecting back, and to feel happy to welcome them when you do finally see your first. This year I was particularly looking forward to seeing my first Wheatear of 2012, and having finally tracked one down in Cornwall I’ve now been seeing them by the bucketload. However many I’ve seen, Wheatear never cease to delight me as they’re such lovely characters, and anyone who is not mesmerised by a sky full of Swallows and Swifts in my opinion has something wrong. Spring is such a lovely time of year all round.

The migrants have kept on coming right through April and into May. Whilst my March total of 11 was pretty disappointing, I have managed to claw it back in April when I saw a grand total of 27 species (wahoo!) including a lot of summer migrants as well as birds from habitats I’ve not really birded so far this year such as coastal cliffs in Cornwall. This takes my yearlist to a very respectable 142. Considering I decided that anything over 150 would be a decent enough figure for my first year of officially listing, to get this far in the first third of this year is something I am very pleased with. At this point, I have no idea where Chris is at in terms of totals (and I’m not sure if he does either) but I am keen to know what his total is so far.

Here’s to continuing to keep up with migrants over the next month.

Keep birding, proper updates to come soon.

Jo