Archive for the 'uk wild birds' Category

18
Feb
19

Winter Visitors

There are a few Shorelark wintering along the Norfolk coast this year. Some in a variable numbered flock others as scattered individuals.

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14
Feb
19

It was Sparrow with his Bow and Arrow

A valentine’s day bow and arrow from this Tree Sparrow.

Strange how this species seems to be doing better (ie: more common and more widespread) in Victoria, Australia as an introduction, than it is here in Norfolk. This individual was among what I would term as a ‘relict’ population at Welney WWT.

04
Feb
19

Long legged lady

Not what you expect to see out on the marshes. A long legged girl named Beatrice.

She was beautiful. Bedecked with jewelry she it was obvious she came from the cider capitol; Somerset. Before you get the wrong idea she was born in 2011 and she’s a Crane. All part of the ‘Great Crane Project’ You can read all about her here  http://www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk/cranes/meet-the-cranes-2011/beatrice

 

30
Jan
19

If you don’t look you don’t see.

When you go to a new continent and see birds it can be overwhelming.

I remember the first time I went birding to the US in the late 1980’s and I drove South from Homestead in Florida. My first daylight hours in the New World and I was on my way to the Everglades. In a field on the approach road there was a massive flock of birds. I pulled over and found myself looking through several thousand Killdeer. A medium sized boldly patterned wading bird. Now finding a Killdeer in the UK would be a rare event; they do get here occasionally but only rarely. Seeing a field full, while seemingly routine for US birders, blew my mind away. So many Killdeers.

As often happens in the US when you stop other cars soon stop to ask you what you’ve seen and that day was no exception. “What have you found” the guy said. “A field absolutely full of Killdeer” I replied. “Oh boy you are new!” came his response. What was for me pure delight, was for him routine. It’s easy to get blase about common birds.

The first time I visited Australia last January I saw lots of new birds. It’s easy to overlook birds that are familiar. Several species have been introduced into the colonies. House and Tree Sparrows, Skylarks, Greenfinch and Goldfinch are not difficult to find in Victoria. When Europeans first settled I guess they brought them along to introduce some familiarity into what would be an alien world.

Coots were not introduced into Australia as far as I’m aware and all the books state it is the Eurasian or Common Coot (Fulica atra) that is found there. The same species we have here in the UK. I took it as read. A widely distributed successful species. However, when I started to look at the Coots swimming about at the Botanical gardens in Melbourne something didn’t seem quite right. They were subtlety different. Every bird I looked at had a pale powder blue bill. Just the bill, not the shield … and it is subtle. Was this something I’d overlooked on the Coots at home? Was it staining in the water? All Coots I saw in Australia had the same pale powder blue bills. The ID books all say Coots in Australia have a white bill. They’re wrong… it doesn’t. I made a mental note to self. Must have a look at the bills on Coots when I get home. I did and they’re pure white. I had a look through my photo stock for Coots. Who takes photos of Coots for Gods sake? Well, apparently I do, and if anything the photos show they sometimes have a pink cast but certainly no blue, powder, pale or otherwise. The problem I have when looking at photos on the net of Coots is that a blue bill can appear to be an artifact of the photo or photo processing. You really do have to see the birds in the flesh, or should that be feather?

So what’s going on? Well I’ve found a vague comment that apparently Australian Coot may be a sub species of Eurasian Coot. Does anyone else know differently? Answers on a postcard please.

I originally took this photo to show the’Brillo Pad’ likeness of the youngster but it does show the blue bill of the adult, all be it out of focus.

 

 

24
Jan
19

Within a Whisker

Trying to fly things by wire from abroad is not easy but I have good friends and colleagues here in the UK and bless them they do help me out when necessary. I’m blessed to have them around me. It was last December and I’d had a good portion of the day at the laptop in ludicrously hot Victoria trying to sort out a problem here in the UK.

The door opened and in breezed Tania after her day at work in Melbourne CBD. I wheeled back on the desk chair and she could see I’d had a rough day. “I know exactly how to fix that face” she said.

She took me to Werribee harbour to do some birding!

For the life of me I don’t know why Marsh Terns don’t regularly breed here in Norfolk. We have the most ideal habitat among the broads. Black Terns nest just over the water in Holland so why aren’t they habitual Norfolk breeders? I honestly don’t know. The same can be said of the rarer Whiskered Tern. Also a Marsh Tern, it breeds as close to the UK as France seemingly ignoring those wonderful open reedbeds offered by the Norfolk Broads.

I’ve never managed to get any decent photos of a summer plumage Whiskered Tern. However, we found a couple of them fishing along the harbour front. I got a few record shots before they flew off west. We followed them and drove into the mouth of the river a mile or so further along the coast. I couldn’t believe how many Whiskered Terns were fishing off the beach. I was in birding heaven. I spent far too long photographing the terns and dodging the surf as the birds plunged into the breakers picking up fish. Needless to say the hot day at the laptop was completely forgotten in the cooling ocean breeze as I did something I love; losing myself in nature.

Birds and our other wildlife, whether it’s at home or abroad, are a real healer; a true medicine to be treasured.

 

03
Jan
19

Hogmanay

On our way to Scotland for the New Year we called in at the Northumberland coast. Scanning the sea was a local. It wasn’t long before we struck up a conversation with him. He made the comment about us celebrating Hogmanay in Scotland; stating “They know how to do it!”.

He was right. However, it wasn’t all about Whisky, Haggis and fireworks. Amid the dark canopy of the Scots Pines in Abernethy there were a few of this helmeted little chaps about. I never tire of watching Crested Tits.

30
Dec
18

2018 – the best bits

2018 for me set off being a somewhat muted year but rapidly escalated into something as special as it gets. Finding someone special to share my life was a revelation that I didn’t expect. The downside of that is a whole planet separates us. 2019 will be spent putting that right.

One discovery for me in 2018 has been the state of Victoria in Australia. The pull of this part of such a remote continent has been extreme. It’s undulating landscape, amiable weather, compelling wildlife and of course one special inhabitant have made this the most special place I’ve ever been. Australia is just the best. My two months here within 2018 have been the most outstanding part of my personal year. Within that two months Tania has taken me to some fabulous places. Mountains, remote bushland, deep dark eucalypt forests, small islands and open wide beaches. However, one place stands out in my mind as it holds birds that have been a part of my life for so long in the UK. Rare birds. Birds that blew to the UK as waifs and strays. Birds such as Red necked Stints and Sharp tailed Sandpipers. In Victoria, Werribee has a water treatment plant holding these birds in mind boggling numbers. Numbers I could only have dreamed about. Who would have thought a sewage plant would have topped my years best bits… but it has. It even topped the Beluga in the Thames!

But what of my professional year. There have been some great times. Scilly once again was terrific, so was Wales, the Farnes were at their best and the Scottish tours were formidable. Picking the best? … well that’s easy. The 2018 Mammal Tour of the UK. Without doubt the best tour I’ve ever done. Some fabulous wildlife; Minke Whales and Dolphins of three species you could have touched. Red Squirrels, Pine Martens and Badgers at arms length. However, to single out one moment of the tour I would have to go to a small beach at the fishing port of Wick on the Scottish East coast. Reading books from being a child through to adulthood enables everyone to conjure up dreams. Bucket lists. Events to experience. Things to see, places to go. I crossed off number one on my own bucket list on that small beach last May. My guests and I experienced the sight of a Walrus in British waters. OK it’s not the cuddliest looking animal you’ll ever come across. But hell … what an animal!

Roll on 2019. Happy New Year.




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