Monday, 16 March 2015

VOTE FOR A NATIONAL BIRD.

OK, this is a reasonably clever idea, a bit of fun or a case to highlight the plight of various birds of our nation. Have a look HERE to vote meanwhile I'll list the finalist (good reason to air some old images lol) and who I'm voting for and why.
HEN HARRIER: Nope I'm not voting for old Harry. Even though this image is the only and thanks to illegal persecution probably the last image I'll have of a Hen Harrier. I've seen one only three times in my life twice one bird on passage at my local reserve Summer Leys and the one photographed at Salthouse, Norfolk. To put some perspective on this I've seen a Montague Harrier six times in my life and they're meant to be rarer!? So why not vote for it? For this particular species to bounce back from the brink not only will there have to be some serious changes in the law but also a change of attitudes from those that wish it harm. Weirdly the law to protect these birds is more achievable then changing the entrenched views of the "kill it, cull it and gloat about it" brigade. So surely if this becomes the national bird of the UK we would need to introduce not only laws but more severe punishment for the law breakers then currently handed down , laws similar to that which protects the Bald Eagle, sorry but it won't happen.
BARN OWL: hard one to justify not to vote for if I'm honest. Could be the latest victim of the Tory government plans to cull "non-native" animals of which both the Little Owl and Barn Owl are on!! So like the Hen Harrier as a national bird this species could do with being thrust into the public limelight (and preferably not some hipsters café in London). Downside is that it can take a bit of searching just to glimpse one, a contender for sure. Oh and another downside everyone mentions Harry Potter when they see a Barn Owl.
RED KITE: yet another victim of persecution and constant calls for culling and control. It gets a name check from William Wordsworth in several of his work. Once considered such a pest it was illegal not to kill one if seen (seriously) and was driven to extinction in most of the UK. It's arguably the most successful conservation/reintroduction programme . Only downside...it should be Oxfordshire's emblem.
KINGFISHER: What can I say, just look at it. A vivid electric blue that's not really blue but a trick of light, eat your heart out Paul Daniels that's proper magic. Everyone loves a Kingfisher from hardcore birders to my mum. My mum who struggles to correctly id a Goldfinch can spot these dashing down a river or like recently as we sat at a set traffic lights one flew over the road to a stream that runs alongside the road "Kingfisher, Kingfisher" she yelled, great spot though. The only downside to this bird is if you have a regular Kingfisher on a nature reserve you'll never get a seat in a hide.
PUFFIN: Comical, endearing, cute and adorable are few of the phrases I've used whilst watching these. There are loads of places this bird can be seen in the UK both easily and without disturbing the actual bird, the same can't be said for the species listed so far. It faces an uncertain future (weirdly all the species listed faces a threat of one sort or another) thanks to pollution, climate change and over fishing of our seas. Downsides: it's pig ugly out of breeding season...ooops.
MUTE SWAN: can't stand them. Every encounter I've had has terrified me, no they can't break a person's arm it's an urban legend. They're supposed to belong to "her majesty" but what does she do to look after them. Aggressive when being fed bread they can easily swallow whole a small child.....I've seen it! Don't vote for this one or you run the risk of legally being forced to have one in your garden, plus they're hardly 'mute' give me a Bewick any day.
ROBIN: How can you not like the Robin, if your garden hasn't got one you haven't got a garden. Even a miserable bugger like me can't think of a reason not to vote for the Robin....
BLACKBIRD: OK I hate the term "garden bird" but it is the ultimate garden bird. Most hardcore birders wouldn't give it a second look whilst out looking for more desirable birds. But myself being stuck indoors with my broken arm I've been able to watch this species at close quarters. It's a very dominant species. The image above is it sneaking up to a Robin that was on "his" fence. It's call is the first and last bird I hear as my day starts/ends and a beautiful song too and some subtle calls too. As a national bird though, hmm imagine it on a flag, imagine it on a stamp, you can't? Neither can I
WREN: Only troglodytes will vote for this (clever hey?) bird. Does this bird represent the UK? It's small, outspoken, overlooked, hard to spot. Funnily it does. But sadly it still owes me £200. After I correctly named the Goldcrest (better looking bird) as the UK's smallest breeding bird in a pub quiz. The 'quizmaster' said "no it's the Wren your team looses" no smartphones back then to correct the numpty... I'm a bitter twisted person.
BLUE TIT : so glad this is on the list. A personal favourite for so many reasons. In winter their colour and antics always cheer me up. I'm weird enough to stop, look, listen and click with camera everytime one is near. I love the way they hang upside sometimes on branches, gently grip a blackberry, I love watching it bully Great Tits on my feeders. I love the fact every spring they will steal my Australian Shepherd's dog hair as it moults I watched through squinted eyes as one landed on Bailey (see canine image's tab at top of blog) pulled a lump of moulting hair as he layed on the ground. My dogs everytime one calls will go to the bush and look so even my dogs love them. BUT there's two reasons why I voted for this bird as the UK's national species.
1: you don't have to travel far or disguise yourself as a tree just to see it. This may not sound important but it is. How many people can travel up to a moorland. Imagine you have a disability how would you try and see all 10 species listed? Imagine you are a youngster say from the age of 5-17 how would you see all 10 species if your parents didn't like nature. For nature to flourish and prosper in this country we have to encourage as wide as a demographic as possible to simply enjoy, interact and help look after nature. If you can't or haven't got access to open meadows, moorland or woodland a lot of the species listed you'll never see. With the exception of Blackbirds, Robins, Tits etc. If you live in a big city/town everyone can see these birds especially the Blue Tit. You can't get people interested in nature if they can't see it, let's light the fire of interest with common species first the rest will follow.
2: a few years back I went to
Birdfair at Rutland, so sicken by the event I seemed refuge on the other part of the reserve and sat in a hide trying to photograph a Kingfisher when an American couple walked in. They were busy scanning the bushes near the hide but not looking at the Kingfisher. So I pointed it out to them "oh that's nice" the male said "where can I find a Blue Tit or a Long Tailed Tit" so off we went to find one. We found a Nuthatch "you only have one species of Nuthatch", we even found a Nightingale "jeez it's loud but quite plain, why are all your warblers brown and boring", cheeky f**ker but he was right. Oh no it was the humble Blue Tit and Long Tailed Tit that got theses two American birders the happiest. To quote "what a colourful little bird (blue tit)so glad we saw i" . If a Blue Tit can melt the heart of two American birders then it deserves to win....maybe.
Who are you voting for?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A VISIT TO SUMMER LEYS, A POOL AND A MARINA

Well first thing my arm is still very painful, makes some very odd clicking noises and is generally a pain in the backside.
I have been getting out and with my camera. Sometimes a combination of bus/foot and when the girlfriend isn't at work/shopping/seeing her friends I pinch her little automatic Corsa. Gear changing in my car from anything between 4th and 6th isn't possible without screaming in agony (it's that painful) and super light steering means one handed or two if I spot the ol'rozzers isn't an issue.
On one walk I found a swimming pool in the middle of nowhere.
Check the chewed (cows) gorse in the background! The semi circular structure is a water seat. There's a couple of small holes in the concaved seat bit and underneath visible from the other side is the remains of the plumbing. It's a sizeable pool not your average sized garden pool. Not sure how long it's been abandoned but nature hadn't taken long to take it back.
The base of the pool is covered in a thick layer of moss, very soft and spongey underfoot. This one is taken looking down to the deep end.
The concrete sides on three of the four sides have collapsed revealing a big earth bank. The trees breaking through the floor and the sides aren't that old. Full of common birds such as wrens, Robins, Thrushes like Blackbirds and Song Thrush. Loads of Long Tailed Tits and both Goldfinch and Chaffinch feeding off alder. Heard a pair of Skylarks despite no "patch", a Kestrel and Redkite, Linnet and Yellowhammer  too. Definately an oddity of a site.
In the car I ventured to Billing Aquadrome marina just for a few shots of gulls from the car seat. This was really an experiment to see if togging from the car was possible if so I could go to a Little Owl site. I got a Common Gull that proved it was possible so have plans to visit a Little Owl site soon.
On Saturday after removing the girlie style air freshener and cuddly toy from the parcel shelf I went up to Summer Leys. The light was great to start with and cold. From the screen hide I managed a couple of Little Egret shots and a couple of Gadwall shots. Slightly overexposed the flight shots.

The footpath from the screen hide was very productive though with the constraints of my arm movement meant I was content to view rather then photograph. Bullfinch, Song Thrush thwacking snails, still good number of Redwing and a Goldcrest were the visible highlights though I did hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming at the feeding station.

I popped into the double decker hide. The water levels are still very high in an attempt to prevent the gulls from taking over the scrape. Not sure if it was because of the water levels but the Lapwings were a bit sparse, there was a few but most were on Pete Wilds field. A Sparrowhawk flushed the gulls from the corner of the scrape and disturbed the small raft of Widgeon. It also pushed a pair of Oystercatchers over, two images of the same bird.

By the time I had walked the short distance to the Rotary Hide it had clouded over, still reasonably bright though. Rotary Island has been colonised by the Black Headed Gulls. Which even though common and dull as dishwater to watch, sorry but they are, they can provide some great scrap shots, as long as your arms up to the task, it wasn't but I had to try.

Not much else was seen so with my arm hurting a bit I opted to call it quits. I stopped off on the way home at the site of the old Cherry Orchard Middle School. Even though the school has closed down the old football/playing pitches are used by the neighbouring college. Occasionally on my dog walking duties there has been on occasions upto twenty Pied Wagtails. On Saturday there was just 10. We normally get two/four all year round on the park/estate but this winter you're tripping over them....


Sunday, 8 March 2015

BITS 'N' BOBS

I really don't have a great deal to show since my last post.
I've had my arm operated on. It's painful, mostly after a period of inactivity. Which in itself is a pain as I'm under strict instructions to limit the movement during the first week. Hmm, OK then!
I got out to the quarry a couple of times. I cheat, I jump on the number 7 bus all of 50 feet from the front door, get off at Moulton Park industrial estate and walk the 3 miles to the quarry. I do look a bit strange big camera bag on shoulders, dressed like a forest ranger (lol) but it guarantees me my own seat at least lol. Against a grey sky bit the Buzzards are displaying brilliantly with up to six birds visible at one time.
The quarry itself is a bit quiet at the moment. It's going through a transitional stage at the moment. The Fieldfare have moved out and seemingly replaced with a flock of 30+ Starlings though I am not convinced these will stay and aren't just passing through. 2 Snipe and 2 Teal are still holding put. But a nightmare to get near for images. Worryingly around the edges of the pool a lot of these annoying 'energy' drink cans are showing up strewn all over the place. Each time I pick them up and chuck them into the first bin I come across and they return, one of the sheds on the site that still had medical kit inside was broken into. I have a firm idea which lads it was and shall have words, though after speaking to the owner I think he'll being having words too.
Quite a few Skylarks have taken to the fields surrounding the quarry, 12 in total which is providing a great soundtrack. Also some Meadow Pipits keep passing over too and a very vocal Song Thrush is declaring it's territory. A Grey Wagtail takes advantage of the the puddles and the "lorry wash" which I cleaned out last summer of oil/diesel and other rubbish is like a make shift pond which this Grey Wagtail was using...
crap picture, again not much to hide against to get close and can't crawl at the moment. So a record image. I'm really waiting to see if the Sandmartins return, hopefully they will and soon too.
On unrelated birding news, my Mack was at Crufts on Saturday, I didn't go. The arm and the medication (tremadoyl..spelt wrong, strong painkillers) meant I wasn't up for it. My mum showed him (as usual) for me...he got a First in class which qualifies him for next year's Crufts so a happy note to end on.