Back in the birdwatching game?

backtobirding

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

2 Days Running

After finally getting round to blogging yesterday i thought I should continue my new found enthusiasm. Yesterday I promised a link to my Flickr account which will be forthcoming, but for now I will run through the Notyouraveragebirders year from April until now in pictorial format.

At this point I will apologise that some of the pictures aren’t great (I’m still learning) and I know little about ISOS or shutter speeds and the like, so be patient!

It all kicked off in April with a trip to Cornwall for my birthday. Cornwall holds a special place in my heart as its the first place in the UK that myself and Jo went on holiday for a week. Obviously the added bonus is that there are a multitude of birding paradises down there and the scenery is something else. Here is a couple of pics from Porthgwarra:

20120913-182432.jpg

20120913-182504.jpg

And the Chough we picked up along the way at the Lizard…

20120913-182549.jpg

After that came a trip to see Jo’s grandparents where we also managed to fit in a trip to Anglesey that resulted in my first ever Puffin! (here’s where the warning about photos is applicable)

20120913-182827.jpg

We also got the added bonus of meeting a twitter contact in the form of @naturebites on a lovely beach where we got to see a huge collection of Terns and put a face to a contact. Here is Kathy and Jo looking a bit cold…

20120913-183440.jpg

Work took hold after this trip until we headed back down to Cornwall in July to see some more wildlife, but the weather took hold. We managed to get out on a sea trip though which was pretty awesome including a leatherback turtle and some very lazy seals

20120913-183727.jpg

Lazy Cormorant

20120913-183812.jpg

Lazy seals!

20120913-183843.jpg

This is a turtle trust me!

20120913-183950.jpg

Possibly my favourite bird at the moment (just edging a goldfinch)

That concludes part 1 of the update, I’ll carry it on tomorrow.

Enjoy everyone

Chris

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

Related articles

Not Forgotten!

Hi Guys,

Just a quick one to say we haven’t forgotten you! We have both been extremely busy since we got back from Cornwall and I want to sit down and write a blog entry that will do what we saw and experienced justice (it’ll be a long one!)

I am also waiting for my glasses to arrive (the years in the office and gaming have taken their toll!) so once they’ve arrived the blog will get going again.

I promise lots of photos and some (hopefully) witty stories as well as a dramatic ending

See you soon

Chris

I’ll leave you with Mr B, taken at the Eden Project 🙂

20120724-211145.jpg

Quick update before the big day

Hello readers!

Since my last blog I have been pretty busy with work and real life, I really need to win the lottery so I can just watch birds and blog all day (cross fingers please, promise I’ll share 🙂 )

I know I have a lot to still cover from my list, but I will cover that later on. The main reason for this blog is to give you an update on my bird ‘banquet’ station. It’s been in place for a good while now, and I was starting to get very jealous of Jo having such a diverse range of birds in her garden that weren’t in mine, the main one being a greater spotted woodpecker. This particularly rangled with me as it is a bird on the front of the RSPB bird guide and I always thought it raised hopes to people who purchased it as beginners that they should expect these birds in their gardens, especially if they live in urban areas…

It turns out I was wrong (not for the first time this year) and when I was working from home a couple of weeks ago I ran into my living room ( I was testing out my hamstring, don’t ask!) and saw a bird fly off the suet log feeder to a nearby tree, grabbing my binoculars I saw it was a GSW! I cannot describe my excitement and had to call Toby at work (sorry for the ramble Toby!) as well as texting Jo.

I had a fear that I would have frightened it off but am pleased to report that it visits every day, although I have had to put in more bird food orders so I’m doing my best to help out local business!

We also have 9 starlings that have reached adulthood, and 2 baby goldfinch that have finally come to terms with the fact they can fly and now spend all day eating sunflower hearts, they are turning into proper fatties! Out of curiousity does anyone know when their red heads start to come through?

All in all I would recommend anyone with a garden to get a bird feeder set up, even on a grey day (lots of them recently) they brighten up the day and I have lost hours watching them so far.

I suppose I should explain my ‘big day’ tomorrow now. I decided to sign up for a 26 mile walk, for charity, from Winchester to Salisbury, I thought it would be a good thing to aim for and to be honest I’m really looking forward to the challenge, however my plan to take binoculars and see birds along the route has gone out the window, I shall just rely on my eyesight as quite frankly I don’t want to carry any extra weight especially with the ridiculously wet forecast. When I get back and if I can move I will blog and finish that list.

Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy the summertime if the weather allows!

Chris

A Day Late

Yesterday turned out to be a wipeout, purely because a friend came round and we played Xbox, (birding hasn’t overtaken that yet!) so here I go covering some if the things I promised on Sunday.

    My Top 10 for the year

This is the “mini competition” that I introduced to keep myself interested. Both Jo and myself picked 10 birds that we wanted to see, the winner being (obviously) the one who sees all 10 first. I will be honest with you here dear reader that a few of mine were based purely on a comical name, so apologies. Here they are (in no particular order)

1. Bittern
This was for two reasons, it looks pretty cool in a herony way and also it’s pretty rare, I obviously fancied a bit of a challenge. As it turned out it was one of the first birds that I spotted this year (peaked too soon!) but if you hear of any in your area I recommend going to look for one, they are illusive but be patient, they are awesome!

2. Ruff
Purely for the name, and the link on google that produced “ruff bird” it is a pretty ordinary bird until it displays, I will hopefully get you a picture before the year is out!

3. Kingfisher
As you will tell from my earlier posts, I love these birds and have now seen them, they just don’t look like they should be from England, so blue and so elegant, Leo and Toby I will find you these before the year is out as they should be shared with every person possible!

4. Osprey
Going back to my childhood these are awesome, so big and I have yet to see one fly, so that’s a mission for this year.

5. Woodcock
Obvious why I picked this, if the name isn’t worth it for shouting out alone, the waddle and noise it makes means this is one of the most comedic birds I have seen online, fingers crossed for the year.

6. Spotted Flycatcher
To be honest, no idea why I picked this. I think I meant to pick pied flycatcher when I was flicking through my Collins but wrote spotted. It’s not very impressive but is proving illusive so far this year and I’m sure I’ll be excited if I manage to see one

7. Firecrest
A small bird with a reddy orange Mohican. Nothing else to say, it HAS to be in my top 10! Also managed to see it..epic

8. Nightjar
I saw one last year and it made such an awesome noise that I need to see it again, I also know where one is\was in the New Forest so it should be relatively achievable (famous last words)

9. Goldeneye
I know the birders amongst you will cry that this is easy BUT it is on the list as a homage to the 1997 Bond Film of the same name. Seen and recorded (the film and the bird)

10. Hawfinch
Last but by no means least, this bird has a relatively funny name (finch of the night anyone??) but also looks pretty damn cool, also seen this year (an awesome day where Jo and I saw these for the first time) and they are a LOT bigger than I thought they would be.

There you go, that’s my top 10, I am half way through, so am a few behind Jo, although the Little Owl could hold her up!

I will cover the trips we have been on at a later date as I just wanted to share a few things that have made my year so far.

    My Garden

About a month ago I purchased a banquet table Bird Banquet Feeder similar to this one, in the hope of attracting birds to the garden which has rarely seen birds for years.

It was partly in jealousy of the vast amount of visitors to Jo’s garden and also that watching birds now cheers me up. It was a very slow start, however I can now report that we have regular visitors and also baby blue tits, baby starlings, baby goldfinches and baby sparrows in the garden. My main reason for enjoying this is that my mum and dad are also getting enjoyment out of seeing birds in the garden, it seems that the bird bug is biting!

I will try and get photos over the next few weeks as I shall be purchasing a new camera as I have been bitten by the photography bug after being lent a camera by Jo’s grandad, I will do a separate post talking about it as it really is such a good method of stress relief, I have some pretty good photos from the Wales trip 🙂

I shall stop rabbiting on now, I will try to blog more tomorrow after football

Chris

Heartbreak

Well, my mission for tonight is to update on our recent adventures, but with a long train journey ahead of me, I feel the need to share sad news from yesterday.

One of the things I am yet to blog about is that I’m undertaking volunteer work for the RSPB at the moment to survey Lapwings on the South Downs. This is a great excuse to get out and about and to search for signs of Lapwing breeding. Sadly, I’ve only found Lapwing on one field I’ve visited so far, but I fear that even there may not prove fruitful for this species this year.

Yesterday, I was out and about for 4 hours with no sign of Lapwing until the end of the walk. I’d decided on a route which ended up at the place I’d seen them before, so at least if we didn’t spot any, there would be a lovely Lapwing surprise waiting for me before returning to the car. A surprise was definitely what I came across, but not the type I was hoping for.

Approaching the Lapwing field, I could see it was looking very neat and devoid of crops. Getting closer still, what I was dreading to see was confirmed. A farmer was just starting on a second round, having churned up the entire field with a plough. I was devastated and just stood there in disbelief. Watching this take place was truly harrowing and a scan of the field through my binoculars threw up four folorn looking lapwings just watching as their home had been destroyed. Whilst I don’t know 100% that nests had been destroyed, these birds were mobbing crows and performing their lolling display flight over a month ago, so I am fairly certain that nests would have been in place by now. Absolutely horrible to witness and I am not ashamed to say that tears were shed. I’ve had to calm myself before I contact the survey organisers to let them know what happened, but I will be in touch with them later today. In some ways I am glad I was able to witness this so at least I know what happened, but this is undoubtedly the darkest moment of my birding life to date. It just goes to show how farmers must work with nature if our native wildlife is to have a future.

Whilst these events cast a massive shadow on my day, there were positives too. I was lucky enough to see at least 8 Skylark (with more singing), 2 Linnet, 8 Hares as well as the bird of the day which was a lone Grey Partridge spotted by my Mum. We also spied a Corn Bunting singing away at the top of planting on a strip of set aside land which was full of seed producing, wildlife friendly plants. This event in particular just goes to show that if farmers put in some efforts to help declining species, the birds and other species are able to reap the benefits. Whilst little efforts like this strip of land make a difference, a lot more needs to be done to give our farmland birds a positive future.

Jo

A Lesser Spotted Sunday Treat

Sunday marked another day of very leisurely birding. I would probably even go so far as to say that calling it ‘birding’ may be a bit of a stretch, more like ‘enjoying the sunshine with a pair of binoculars’. Being a glorious day, we decided to set out to Lepe Country Park to enjoy the weather on the Coast. When we arrived, we quickly realised that most of Hampshire had the exact same idea as it was absolutely heaving which was definitely not what I had been hoping for!

We managed to find a vacant bench looking over the Solent towards the Isle of Wight and enjoyed the sunshine whilst flicking through a magazine and snacking on lunch. Just lazing about was perfect and whilst my life has revolved around birding recently it was lovely to spend Sunday afternoon enjoying being outside but not just because I was birding. Not much to report on the birding front other than a couple of Long Tailed Tits in the brambles, some ducks and a couple of Canada Geese on an inland patch of water. Pretty much the only highlight was a Black Tailed Godwit– the first I’ve seen in its russety summer plumage probing away in the mud with its beak.

Whilst birds were few and far between there was a lot of blossom around the place which looked stunning in the sunshine:

After a stroll along the sea front, and a stop off for me to finally pick up some local Tide Tables from the visitor centre, we decided to head home with a detour via Hawkhill Inclosure, site of Chris’s deer experience last week. I wasn’t expecting to see anything of note as we just fancied a wander, but I ended up having my birding highlight of the weekend. We took a short circular walk to stretch our legs before heading back home, and the Inclosure looked absolutely beautiful in the bright Spring sunshine.

Having seen a few Chaffinch and Blue Tit on our way round, when Chris spotted something ‘bright green’ in the trees, we stopped to take a look and after a bit of searching a glorious Mr Siskin was revealed. The woods we were looking in seemed to have a fair amount of bird activity in them, so we decided to stop for a while and see what would be revealed. We didn’t have to wait long before we noticed a Great Spotted Woodpecker which we watched for a while and even saw drumming, which was great. Amongst the treetops Chris spotted a fine male Crossbill and we later spotted a female companion. One Siskin soon became several and there was obviously a resident flock residing along with a group of Chaffinch. Whilst looking for a mystery bird Chris had seen, I spied some movement along a knarled tree branch. On closer inspection the movement revealed itself as my first ever Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and best of all it was completely self-found. Like my Firecrest/Goldcrest fears, I always worried I would mistake this bird for its big, brash Great cousin, but this is far from the case. I knew that this was a small woodpecker but I was amazed at how small. This bird was amazing, shuffling along the branches, and definitely one of the best birds I’ve ever seen- a minature, more finely detailed version of a GSW!

On our way back to the car we came across several singing Chiffchaff (fast becoming our weekend soundtrack) and another flock of Siskin in the pines around the car park. A lovely way to end our day in the sunshine.

What a weekend of life ticks!

Jo

Spring Has Sprung

Well Winter certainly feels a long time ago. Today Jo and I headed to the New Forest to try and see another one of my top ten list, the Firecrest. We thought that this would actually be pretty tough, as not only are they pretty small but they are normally only around from April onwards so we may have been too early.

In reality, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I should probably add here that we prepared for finding them by playing what their birdsong sounded like using an app from the iTunes store. Misty (Jo’s family cat) got very interested in my iPad when the Firecrest came on and so it stuck in both of our heads.

We sat down at the first bench we came to and heard the same noise, so we just enjoyed the sun and waited for them to appear. When he did we got to see him for a good ten minutes, and they really are a damn funky bird. The Mohican just looks cool and if I was a bird then one of these would be near the top of my list.

In total we must have seen about 8 of them and I’m pretty sure that Jo enjoyed it as much as I did, I’m sure that she will blog on it later.

Also worth a mention is my first chiff chaff of the year (followed by another 6)

All in all a brilliant day especially with the weather, I hope you are all getting out and enjoying the weather, I’m still waiting for some of you to come birding with me/us (Toby!)

Chris

No Sight

So, I have now completed my first solo bird walk. As I said yesterday, I was hoping for the junco. However, it would appear that the bird has flown. I turned up at the carpark (after getting a bit lost) and was greeted by the sight of one other car. Suggesting that everyone else knew the bird wasn’t there, unperturbed I pressed on.

The landscape was so different to the last junco attempt, it was a bleak, almost winters atmosphere and I couldn’t blame the junco for moving on, if I was a bird I’d have done the same. Here’s a picture of me at the ex junco site (I know I don’t look great but the sun chose that moment to come out and the quickly retreated)

20120317-141235.jpg

I decided to move on, there was nothing fluttering and I could hear lots of noise. I managed to see robins, chaffinches, wood pigeons, magpies and the crowning moment some goldcrest! One thing I did notice today was that if you see one type of bird you will see two, and every type I saw had its mate with them, this was pretty useful as at other times of the year you only see one or the other, the downside is that they are often quick moving or having sex, swings and roundabouts I suppose!

I had one other bird encounter on my way out of the car park, when I saw a male and female stonechat performing what I imagine was a courting dance, Mr Stonechat was looking pretty cool, but I couldn’t stay around to see them longer as I was stopping cars from getting into the car park (sorry new forest drivers)

One thing that made me genuinely happy on the walk came after I was cursing a bird for not landing, meaning I couldn’t identify it, I turned around and was greeted by this sight..

20120317-142721.jpg

There were 27 deer staring right at me, probably wondering who the hell I was talking to (I did it regularly today) they stayed around for the next 10 minutes and I just sat down and watched them. It really made me realise how much I have fallen in love with the outdoors and being in the middle of nowhere.

In birding terms it wasn’t a great showing, with no new year ticks and I’m no closer to Jo and her score, however it has rejuvenated my desire and should hopefully stand me in good stead going forward.

*i would also upload the video I took of the deer but my phone won’t communicate with the iPad so bear with me! I also couldn’t find my camera so made do with my phone one which is why the photos aren’t great quality.

Speak soon!

Chris