Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feeling naked

I did something stupid on Friday. Like reeeeally stupid. I left my bins and my scope in the office. Not overly stupid in itself except for the fact that the office is in London... and this weekend I'm in Liverpool. Any plans of birding were thus scuppered. Not that staying home didn't pay off, though; I had a new 'garden entity' tick.

A Canaray x Goldfinch hybrid. He called in flight like a Goldfinch and he kicked like a mule (ha), and was also the size of a Greenfinch. I'm guessing its Canary parent was red, though I suppose a bit of colour-feeding might give the same effect; I'm assuming the bird is an escape.

I opened up two nets in the garden, which proved to be surprisingly productive with 26 birds (25 new & 1 retrap) caught over the morning. The retrap was a Blue Tit that I'd originally ringed in the garden on 1st July. Plenty of adult birds were in wing-moult, most doing it the conventional way (primaries working out in order from the innermost). This 2cy male Greenfinch, however, had decided to do things a little differently:

On the right wing, it's moulted p3 first (now almost three-quarters grown), then it seems to have moulted p1 and p2 simultaneously (both about half grown), and then most recently it's moulted p4 (about one-quarter grown and still largely surrounded by the feather sheath); primaries 5 onwards are old.
Perhaps not too surprisingly given the Bohemian nature of this bird's moult, the two wings are not symmetrical. On the left wing it has moulted p4 first (about three-quarters grown), followed by p2 (about half grown) and then most recently it appears to have simultaneously moulted p1 and p3 (still in their sheath and hidden from view in the above photo). Again, primaries 5 onwards are old.

And one last thing from the garden. I don't really do cute but, you have to admit, this is cute.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ringing at Icklesham

Most of the weekend just passed was spent ringing at Icklesham, East Sussex, with a bit of birding and meeting up with old friends in between.

The vast majority of birds caught were Sedge and Reed Warblers, with smaller numbers of Garden Warbler, Whitethroats and Grasshopper Warblers.

Other interesting birds ringed over the weekend included this juvenile Jay:

This juvenile Yellow Wagtail:

And a trio of Common Treecreepers, all juveniles.

Here are its primary coverts:

And here are the primary coverts of the other two birds:

Sightings of note in the wider area included an adult Med Gull, a couple of Hobby, a Whimbrel, two Ruddy Ducks on Pett Level, 13 Common Scoter, two Common Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers, 37 Black-tailed Godwits, and a Barn Owl. Non-avian highlights included this fat moth:

This pretty moth:

And these day-flying moths, seen during my Big Butterfly Count:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

London wet land

I donned my leaky jacket and headed down to the London Wetland Centre again today. Quiet is perhaps an understatement, though at least the heavy rain meant there were about four other people on site. A Kingfisher was the highlight, with Common Tern and Shoveler vying for second place; after that the standard of 'highlights' falls somewhat with Teal, Gadwall, Stock Dove, Whitethroat, Blackcap and a family of Little Grebes. Yes, it really was that quiet!

The wader scrape wasn't looking too scrapy, and the only waders present were a couple of Lapwings...

No trip to the wetland centre would be complete without a badly exposed Grey Heron photo.

And proof that grim birding in London isn't just confined to way out west:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Just another week in the BirdGuides office

I don't usually blog about my day-to-day life, largely because I suspect no one cares; and, after all, this blog is called MenzieBirding and not Menzie's hot birding and life!... But some weeks certainly lend themselves to being more bloggable than others and this week was one of them.

Monday started watching some caesium being melted. For those reading who have never messed about with caesium before, watch this to the end to see what happens when a pea-sized blob of it is dropped into some water:

Wednesday we were at the British Natural History Museum for the launch of Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count.

Look who we found in the butterfly house:

It's His Majesty Sir David of Attenborough.

Here he is just after his interview with us.

And here I am coming close to chopping off Sir David's nose with a clapperboard.

Then on Thursday I was at Tower 42.

On top of Tower 42, to be precise.

Click here for a 360° view of the roof

We were there as part of the Tower 42 bird study group's migration watch, organised by David "The Urban Birder" Lindo.

The bird count was limited to a dozen Common Swifts and a distant Peregrine, but the spectacular views more than made up for the lack of sightings...

Look at me! I'm higher than the Gherkin!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Acton Park and London Wetland Centre

This morning was spent wandering around Acton Park collecting up as many proof-of-breeding records as I could to whack into BirdTrack. Amongst the expected stuff, a family of Mallard and a family of Moorhen were on the tiny pond at the bottom end of the park. The Moorhens were on to their second brood, judging by the full-grown juvenile that was also pottering around the pond.

This afternoon I headed off to the other side of the river to Barnes WWT wetland centre. It was generally quite quiet with a female Peregrine and a plethora of Coot being the highlights. That said, the site is only 20 minutes from here and is definitely worth visiting more often.

Plenty of Pochard and Tufted Duck around the place, too; lots with broods.

Also some dragonflies and damselflies. Here's a female Emperor egg-laying:

And a Six-spot Burnet moth:

The captive stuff is always worth a look. Mega trio:

Call me a pedant, but should these really be in the Icelandic pen?

And I think this might be a new species for me:

That's to say I've never set eyes on one before, full set of primaries of otherwise.


Also at the wetland centre were some Woodpigeons. Here's an 'interesting' bird...

I sketched its right wing.

I guess it's more of a representative diagram than a sketch, but anyway, it turned out to be a bit of a waste since photos showed exactly the same thing. It's nice to be oldskool with a proper physical notebook though, right?

To decipher my scribbles and explain what the photo shows:-
There are two generations of primaries; p9-6 are old; p5 is growing (just visible beyond the secondaries); p4 is new and probably in the last stages of growth; and p3 is new, probably fully grown. After that the primaries are hidden under the secondaries, but we can safely assume that they're all new, too.
There are three generations of secondaries; s1 is, I suspect, old - it looked darker than the neighbouring feathers and gave the impression of being newer but this could be because of its more protected position; s2-3 are (also) old; s4 is new and probably fully grown, or nearly so; s5 is new and still growing; s6 is very old (pale brown, short, and frayed around the edges); p7-8 are old.
If what I said the other day is to believed, that should make this individual a 3cy.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


With a window in the weather this afternoon, we dashed out of the office to try and catch up with a damselfly that has thus far managed to elude our lenses.

Small Red Damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum

We were escorted onto the private site at Eelmoor Marsh by the lovely Betty, who then showed us a series of peaty ditches stuffed full of odonates.

The most conspicuous were the male Keeled Skimmers:

Here is what I presume is a female Azure Damselfly, identification based mainly on the nearby presence of male Azure Damselflies! It looks like it's been dipping its bottom into dirty water...

We also found this (immature?) female Emerald Damselfly:

...and this female Black Darter:

But most common was our target species. Mature male:

...and teneral individual:

Other stuff on site included this tiny Palmate Newt:

And several species of insectivorous plant. Butterwort sp.:

Round-leaved Sundew:

And Narrow-leaved Sundew

No birds; but then it is the first week of July, so what did you expect?