Thursday, 27 December 2012

Birding in Bath

I was birding in Bath today, and once again proved The Urban Birder's point - There are birds in cities. A species total  of 19 was good. An over-wintering Blackcap was thrilling to find. Most of these birds were common birds however armed with a new pair of binoculars (Hawke FrontierED 8x43) I was keen try them on anything and was able to see the detail of the birds. For an hour and fifteen minutes of casual birding while my sister and Granny shopped in the sales 19 species was more than what I hoped for. I was mainly birding around the Royal Victoria Park near the Royal Cresent and wandered down to the river for around half an hour. This gave more woodland birds and some waterbirds because of lakes and also urbanised Gulls.

My Granny said to me after that in the 1950s when she was at University there that she had never seen a single Gull there, so this is a very recent occurrence. Although we should be scornful of them as they are showing a clear intelligence to evolve around human life, other Sea Birds to do this are cormorants. They are very successful and 'us birders' are rewarded for their intelligence as we get close up views and can study behaviour and plumage to great detail.

I would recommend Bath to anyone, or cities in general as they have a lot to offer 'birdwise'!

Friday, 5 October 2012

My Local Patch

As Local Patches go, mine is nothing special. A half mile stretch of the the Little Avon River in Wotton-under-Edge provides nothing more than 'common' birds but nothing more than 'common' birds is what a local patch is about. You may get a rarity once in a while but going out and discovering the everyday goings on is something special, something special that only you can unlock.

Unlocking this connection with your local patch doesn't mean avidly going out everyday, as I found out, but just developing an understanding of the area that you survey in your own time. If you find yourself struggling for time but feel you must to go out to survey your patch perhaps you are going about it in the wrong way. I found a local Patch is about surveying the area for your love and passion for birds, so just go when you have time and enjoy it.

So what is your patch? Well, there are no specifications to what your patch must have or look like because anywhere you look there will be birds whether it be in a city or in the countryside. But think to yourself when deciding, Have I seen birds here before? Do I want to come here in my own free time? Will I get bored of my patch? If you answer that sequences of questions with Yes, Yes, No then you need not worry about where your patch is.

As you will soon find out you will get excited about new birds that you see on your patch. One day I found 10 pheasants in a field, the fact that I had only ever seen 1 pheasant on my patch before got me very excited.  And this is one reason why you survey your patch, for moments like these.

So if you feel like you are being starved of bird life due to unavailable transport to well known reserves, get out on your patch and discover the wonders within.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The British Birdwatching Fair

This weekend was no ordinary weekend, not because the new Premier League season kicked off but because this weekend it was the British Birdwatching Fair.

The British Birdwatching Fair, otherwise known as Birdfair, has been running for 24 years. It started off as just a few stalls but now the place is buzzing with activity. The now hundreds of exhibitors bring in thousands of people with profits going towards a chosen theme. This year it was to aid the East Asian/Australasian flyway. The East Asian/Australasian flyway is one of the most important migratory systems in the world but because of human development is under threat. Already proving its worth with this fantastic cause, Birdfair seems to bring out the best in people. As a first timer and a keen birder I was in heaven here. As a young person who often gets dismissed as a mere twitcher, it was really encouraging for me to be taken seriously about my passion for birds.

I enjoyed meeting and talking to many people during Birdfair. People like Simon King, Stephen Moss and David Lindo were there to talk to me at book signings but people from the BTO such as Neil Calbrade, Dave Leech and Nick Moran were all very encouraging and kind. Neil Calbrade gave an excellent talk on the BTO's Wetlands Bird Survey and then after, gave up 30 minutes of time talking and explaining to me what it was about and eventually signing me up! Nick Moran told me that I was probably the youngest WeBs surveyor! Dave Leech renewed my interest in bird ringing by talking to me about it at the ringing demo and promised to help me get in touch with Kane Brides (expert ringer at Slimbridge). All of these fascinating people, and more, gave up their time to talk to people they've never met before over three days of Birdfair!

There were many lectures during the British Birdwatching Fair but there was one quiz, one quiz which was to turn this fantastic event on its head! A Question of Stork was the name. A take on A Question of Sport in a similar format. But this was to be an utter shambles of a quiz but pure entertainment! Nick Baker and Mike Dilger each have a brilliant sense of humour and both began to try to run the show. They tried to follow the schedule and questions but as the show ran on, the contestants became more and more rebellious and Stephen Moss moved difficult questions along very quickly adding to the humourous effect. Overall a hilarious occasion and it would be great to see again!

There were so many things that were great about Birdfair that it is impossible to write about all of it! I want to finish as I started, by saying that Birdfair seemed to bring the best out of people. There was a lovely informal atmosphere which helped to get people chatting, whether it was having your coffee on a bench or at a stall, everyone was very kind and was pleased to see teenagers like myself at Birdfair. Overall this has been an excellent first Birdfair. As a first timer it was all that I expected and more. I will definitely be going as a second timer next year and Birdfair will be even more magnificent!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Slimbridge 2.4.12

Today was a sunny day with a slight chill in the air, the birds appeared to love it!!
The trip got off to a good start on the Rushy seeing the female Lesser Scaup again, this time being able to accurately know which bird it was. Most of the birds on the rushy were asleep as it was mid morning. A Heron slowly walked through the water at the back of the rushy! After a long chat with Warden James Lees (!) I went to the Martin smith hide where a lonely Shelduck sat with its beak under its arm. I moved on the the Robbie Garnett hide where the 7 snow geese were! They were on migration and had stopped off for a few days. An Egret stood alone preening itself. Other birds on the Tack Piece included Shovelers, Gadwalls, Greylag Geese and more Shelduck. The next hide I visited was The South Lake Observatory, there were a lot of gulls including black-headed, and one Lesser Black Backed Gull which can be identified, from its cousin the Greater Black Backed Gull, by the colour of its legs, in this case it had yellow legs which meant it was a Lesser, if it had a brown/orange colour to its legs then it would have been a Greater. Also on South lake there were a lot of Waders over the other side my binoculars I had weren't strong enough to see them so I walked to Hogarth hide which would bring me closer to these mystery waders. on closer inspection they were in fact Black and Bar Tailed Godwits. they had an amazing orange colour on their under side and very long beaks, they were feeding. Then I spotted the most exciting sighting of the day which was two Avocets! This was especially exciting because Avocets are rarely seen in the west of the country. They sifted there beaks gracefully backward and forth searching for food. After watching these for at least half an hour I went home.          

Monday, 30 January 2012

Garden Birdwatch

The garden Birdwatch was not as good as expected. The weather was grim and so not many birds turned up. The full list included
Coal Tits-2
Blue Tits-2
It was nice to see these birds but they were within the first 20 minutes or so of doing it.

Oldbury Power Station 28.1.12

I got to the Oldbury power station car park and things got off to a great start, seeing a green Woodpecker flying off into the tree’s. As I walked to the hide overlooking Lagoon 3 I saw a Blue Tit fly over and into a tree as I got my binoculars on to the bird it suddenly flew upwards and it had flown up to a lamppost and at the end the Blue Tit was cling on to it. I was not surprised to see this because having been there before in the summer I had witnessed a Blue Tit family nesting in the lamppost. As I moved closer to the hide I heard a Song Thrush singing. I looked up to the tallest tree and at the top was the singing bird. I then went to the hide and in there was Peter Hazelwood who updates a website called Oldbury Power Station ( After greeting him I looked at the 100 or so Lapwing, about 300 Dunlin and around 50 Gulls I also saw three small birds about the size of sparrows. 2 or 3 minutes later Peter Hazelwood said, “Did you come here looking for the Twite?”
I said, “I had heard about them. Why?
“They are over there.” He replied. I was very excited. The birds I thought were sparrows were actually Twite. After Peter Hazelwood left we saw a lonely Curlew which appear to have just woken up. After that hide I walked long the stretch of the walkway past the River Severn. The only birds about were Mallards, in fact I must of seen at least 30 mallards all chasing each other about. I then reached Lagoon 2 where there was a sense of business about. The brambles were alive with the sound of bird song. Unfortunately not much could actually be seen. I did see a flock of about 7 goldfinches and also a Bullfinch. I walked around to the orchard and stopped to take photos of the many Tits which were there. I sat down onto a bench there for a rest but I could hear this strange squawking sound. I just thought it was a Magpie but on closer inspection it turned out to a couple of Fieldfares another species of which I had never seen. The trip turned out to be a good one and I really enjoyed it!!!     

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Slimbridge visit (21.1.12)

I arrived at 9:30 on the dot and walked straight through using my membership card. I, as usual, went to the Rushy first where Bewick Swans, Pintails, Shelducks, Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Woodpigeons and Shoveler ducks all sat quietly without too much commotion but then about ten Canada Geese flew in and disturbed the peace. I was keen to move on to the Robbie Garlett Hide as I’d heard there was a great view of the Female Lesser Scaup. Having failed twice before to see it I was frustrated when I couldn’t find it. There were so many Tufted Ducks that it was hard to see it. Also there were hundreds of Wigeon, about 30 Pintails, about 30 Tufted Ducks, 20 or so Mallards, Canada Geese, at least 1000 Lapwings and mixed in with the Lapwings were Ruff, Golden Plover and Sandpipers. Golden Plovers and Ruff being a new species for me!! Redshanks appeared to be feeding from the edge of a pool. There were about 15 redshanks around the pool. After I moved on to the Holden tower where I saw more Lapwings, Wigeon, Canada Geese. I saw the White Fronted Geese and the two Egyptian Geese these two types of geese also being a new species to me. By this time I was very excited!! I went from the windswept Holden Tower to the quite Stephen Kirk Hide or so we thought, within 2 minutes of getting inside the Lapwings and other Waders all took off and did the most amazing displays thousands of birds flying over the top of us. I half ran from the Stephen Kirk hide to the Robbie Garnett hide where we got a better view of the displaying birds. After checking out the “displayers” I looked down onto the Tack piece where about 100 barnacle geese stood with ten Swans. Then a bird flew in. I had no idea what type of bird it was but after looking in my Collins Bird Guide, I came to the conclusion that it was a Snow Goose!! It was amazing but after asking Warden James Lees I was slightly disappointed that in fact it was Canada Goose with a pigment problem!! The day slowed down after that excitement but I paid a visit to the Zeiss Hide. On the way to the Hide there was a Bullfinch perched in the tree. It was very beautiful. Lots of waders stood around not really doing much. No sign of the Bittern as it was only 11am. As I walked back I could see the Lapwings flying around again so I decided to go back to the Robbie Garnett hide were amazingly the Lesser Scaup was swimming very close to the hide. I was very happy to finally see it.

Best Hide
The best was the Robbie Garlett Hide due to its amazing Lapwings and Lesser Scaup. The Holden Tower was better than usual offering more birds such as White Fronted Geese.

Best Moment
The best moment was seeing the Lesser Scaup because I was searching every female Tufted Duck to see if it had a tuft and finally I came across one that didn’t have tuft.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Blue Tits Nesting!?

Hello Again,
Finally after three years of having a bird box, 2 Blue tits have moved in!! A little early but its looking good. Seen them entering the box with grass!!! They seemed to be a bit tentative on going in but seem to be getting used to it. Other sightings this week include 2 collared Doves, 2 Wood Pigeons, A wren, plenty of Robins, Wagtails at school.

SlimBridge Visit 14.1.12

SlimBridge Visit 14.1.12

I was really eager to get in but the trip got off to a slow start with a long queue holding me up. I started with the Rushy where a surprisingly low amount of birds quietly sat on the water. Most of these birds were Tufted Ducks(Tuftys) and Shelducks, Pintails, Teals, Wigeon and Pochard. There were about 20 or so Bewick Swans and some Mallards. After looking at a robin outside of the Rushy hide I moved on to the Martin Smith Hide where we saw our most exciting sighting. 4 Common Snipe!! We had great views as they were about 3 metres from us. The markings of the bird were spectacular making it hard to see when you took your eye off it. When one flew off it appeared to be much smaller than a Common Snipe so I asked Slimbridge warden James Lees which type it was. He said,There has been around 5 Common Snipes consistently from that hide all winter. So far no jack snipes seen from there”. Also in the large expanse beyond the smaller pond where the Common Snipe were there was a gathering of around 200 Wigeon some Pintails and some Pochard. 50 or so Lapwings were scattered around the paddock and right at the back there were some waders including Dunlin and Common Sandpipers. The Robbie Garlett hide looked out onto the same paddock as the Martin Smith hide but only looked out onto a few Mute Swans and a couple of Shelducks, 3 Teal were also mulling around in the pool. After walking through all the captive bird enclosures we came to the Zeiss Hide which was very crowded due to the Bittern in the reeds. I saw it through a man’s telescope but having seen 10 at the Somerset levels, I wasn’t as excited as I should have been. After walking back to the main complex I decided to go back to the Martin Smith where I added a heron to the sightings list.

Best Hide
The best hide has to be the Martin Smith hide as it had the Common Snipes and thousands of other birds in the background. The Zeiss hide was good with the Bittern but lacked other birds. The Rushy was disappointing as the amount of birds was less than expected.

Best Moment
Easily the best moment was seeing the four Common Snipe!! I always see a species of bird I have never seen before, every time I go to Slimbridge. The bittern was also very good as they can be very rare and elusive!