Sunday, 28 August 2011

Owls

Owls.......everybody likes a nice owl. Whether it be the ghostly shape of a barn owl hunting, the fiersome glare of a roosting LEO or the sound of tawnys calling during spring evenings - whatever it is, owls are friggin cool. As mentioned in a previous post i've been getting out on the hunt for owls on an increasing basis this year and had managed to discover around 10 Little Owl sites. Well I say I discovered 10 sites, after corresponding with Paul Riddle it became clear that all but a couple were already well known by him and were part of his study area. Thanks to the hooded birder though he was able to locate his then new site (no.191 I believe) near to Tur Langton. Very nice. Since corresponding with Paul I was lucky enough to be invited out by him about a week ago to check out some of the owl sites in the general area and discuss the sites that i'd been visiting as with one of the sites I had been able to raise the number of juveniles recorded this year from 2 to 3 birds. Well, that was until he checked for himself and found 4 juveniles....had to go one better didnt he! Anyway it was a fantastic experience and a wonderful opportunity to sponge some knowledge off a guy who has an incredible understanding of Little Owl and their habitat in South Leicestershire. It did make me feel rather incompetent however as some of the sites he was kind enough to show me were sites that i'd driven past 100s of times without the faintest inkling of owls being present! Only two owls were seen (middle of the afternoon so wasn't an ideal time) but in all honesty I wouldn't have cared if we had seen none. Paul also demonstrated that his skills stretch further than just with Little Owls too when he spotted a Kingfisher within seconds of pulling up at Sapcote Quarry ( a site I never knew existed....ignorance is bliss.)

Anyway less of the waffling...... owl photos.....be prepared for their awesomeness.


straight in there with the best one (doesnt bode well for the others)

thought about cropping this one but spot the owl is much more entertaining

The indistinct blob in the headlights is a recently fledged Little Owl (honest guv). And no, I didnt motor it.


Thursday, 25 August 2011

25th August. Welford reservoir

On the way to drop Amy back off at home in Northampton we stopped to walk off lunch around Welford reservoir which for those who don't know is located just North of the village of Welford (gasp), on the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire border. Welford can be a cracking little site during passage times and as it can be walked around completely in well under an hour it is often a perfect stopover during the many trips I do between Leicester and Northants. Today was a pretty standard day but a patch tick Kingfisher was nice. Very nice. Other goodies included a single Common Sandpiper, two Spotted Flycatcher and witnessing a 20lb Mirror Carp being landed. Double nice. Strong suspicions were also achieved of a GSWoodpecker nest that has almost certainly raised two broods this year.

Later I took the scenic route home through the South Leicestershire countryside on the hunt for Little Owl but unfortunately no birds were seen. I've developed a bit of a passion for owling this year and try to get out at least twice a week at twilight to try for sightings. None today though. Boo. Todays tactic of roaming around on the hunt for new owls rather than going to sites im already aware of clearly went tits up and should not be repeated again! If i've got time tommorrow i'll post some of my owl images that will surely have The Riddler crying for mercy and handing over his camera (and enormous list of owl sites) in recognition of how amazing I am. But for now i'll leave you with an incident that happened earlier.


video

Monday, 22 August 2011

Oh and one of these.......

Forgot to put up a contender for "Worlds worst Rarity Photograph".

Behold....

Spotted sandpiper at Rutland

or maybe this....it may just be venturing too far into the "readily identifiable" category however....

Grey Phalarope also at Rutland (Old Hall)

21st and 22nd August. Wild egret chase

I have developed a new nemesis over the last couple of days. And that nemesis is the Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis. One turned up at Eyebrook at a similar time to this last year and I missed it, so when one had been reported on Saturday I made my way over early on Sunday afternoon to try and see the beast. Made a rookie manoeuvre from the off in wearing the trademark hoodie - it was absolutely roasting. Now a normal person could have fixed this by simply removing the offending item of clothing but no such luck for me, In my wisdom I hadn't worn a shirt underneath and rather than expose my doughy physique to the world I cooked. Slowly.  Upon arriving it was patently obvious that the bird wasn't in the area it had been reported, and over the next two hours it became even clearer that the bird wasn't present anywhere, with it last being seen fucking off high Northwards. Bugger. A few decent birdies such as 7 Ruff, 2 Greenshank and half a dozen juvenile Yellow Wagtail (there were two Whinchat seen with the wagtails earlier in the day, but I didn't pick them out) did little to compensate. So I went home to watch the cricket in the end. And then saw that the Cattle Egret had returned to Eyebrook. What a bastard. So plans were made for Monday. Oh and I saw a Weasel at Great Easton whilst I was roaming around looking for cows.

22nd August
And so I found myself at the viewing area near the island bright and early at 6am this morning. Sightings of Little Owl, Muntjac deer and Bat sp. en route to the site made for a good start, made all the more better by a group of 3, closely followed by a group of 2 Egrets flying straight over my head within seconds of arrival and landing in the area the Cattle Egret had been seen last the night before. All 5 turned out to be Little Egret. The dirty rotters. A pair of Hobby briefly caused what may have been classed as pleasure but it was mainly annoyance with the unpredicatable nature (and downright indecency) of the Egret. Even worse my Ruff count peaked at 6 birds today and I only saw 1 Greenshank. A Green Sandpiper was added to the day list here though.
Being at Eyebrook early in the morning is always enjoyable but after a couple of hours I got bored with not seeing the Egret and became confident that i'd looked pretty damn thoroughly for it and it was almost definitely not present. And so I made my way over to Ketton quarry with the intention of satisfying the Llama and finding a real, live adder for my Leicestershire reptile list. Although its not an ideal time of year for adder I was reasonably confident of a sighting as Ketton is adder-tastic and it was a lovely warm, sunny day when I arrived on site shortly before 9am - theoretically perfect for a basking snake. In practice however no snakes were seen. Not one. I was on site for the best part of 3 hours, enjoying the sunshine and the cacophany of woodland bird song belting out from the surronding area. I did find a skin though. This one was about 2 feet long.

The visit wasn't totally devoid of reptiles however, with many many Common Lizards in evidence. Trying to get a close look (or a photo for that matter) of these little devils is a challenge though as they rarely sit still! I did see one enormous individual though, he/she was huge!

Spot the lizard

Other good stuff seen whilst at Ketton included two flyover Raven, Jay, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Lesser Whitethroat, the two commoner Woodpeckers and what were my best ever views of a Stoat. It made its way down the side of the "ampitheatre", stalked and then chased a couple of rabbits and then promptly sat on a flat rock and stared at me (I was only about 15 feet away) for what seemed like an age although it was probably only a few seconds. As soon as I moved (in this case to attempt a photo) though it shifted sharpish and wasn't seen again!

Eventually, I left Ketton at around midday and after a quick scan of Eyebrook on the way, went home and watched England be well good at cricket. Oh, and the Egret turned up at Burley Fishponds this evening. The turd.

Edit: Oh and a juv. Blackcap was sighted in the garden rare bush on Sunday. Bonanza.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

County tick, Garden tick and boyish wonder

A nice triple pronged post here today ;

County tickage - I dragged Amy out for a walk on monday afternoon with the intention of finding and exploring the Charnwood lodge/Timberwood hills area as i'd never got round to going there before. But, as had happened before, I got confused and ended up walking a completely different area.....well the info board claimed it was still Charnwood lodge but it was a different area to where I'd aimed for - this was the area opposite the Forest Rock pub (which incidently has been renovated since I last went and is now rather swish, hooded birders hoodie received critical stares) in Whitwick. Nevertheless Hooded birder and his intrepid partner went for a jolly around this bit anyway as my Grandparents often used to take me and my sister up here for a walk with Pudding the dog. The walk was very nice and nostalgic but was completely devoid of birdlife. In the two hours(ish) that I was there only Woodpigeon, Magpie, Crow, Swallow and Nuthatch (heard only!) found its way into my notebook for the day. So how on earth did I manage to bag a county tick?? It wasn't a bird that why, it was a beautiful Common Lizard that stormed its way onto my Leicestershire reptile list, sitting proudly alongside Grass snake and a dead Adder I saw once.

Garden tickage - This record was pleasing for three reasons. 1) It was a bird this time. 2) Having lived in this house since I was 4 years old garden ticks don't happen very often. 3) I managed to take a photo of it this time. Ok using the word photo is stretching the definition of this word to the very limit but I couldn't care less! It was a documented garden tick which was the main thing as the old bag can be dismissive of garden tickage, I know to this day she doesn't believe my flyover Raven claim!
Anyway back to the bird, it was a Whitethroat (juvenile) and it was bloody brilliant! Hooded birder was sat in the garden smoking narcotics and reading Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix when he became aware of a little brown chap flitting about in the garden rare bush. The garden rare bush does exactly what it says on the tin - if it's garden rare, it'll be in the garden rare bush. I'll have to get back to you on the species of bush buts its a good bush. Has yellow flowers on it sometimes. Anyway, said bird was flitting around in the garden rare bush and was decent enough to not fly off whilst I made risky amounts of disturbance trying to get inside to get the bins. And so, juvenile Whitethroat in the bag. Here it is;


No apolgies for the shit image here, this was 21 years in the making!
On reflection I should have seen it coming having read recently about this being a Whitethroat year and this being the time of year where juvenile warblers turn up in gardens but predictably I didn't. Still, shouldnt complain, only the second warbler (after several blackcap records over the years) on the garden list. Should post that soon.

Boyish wonder - I was cocking about on the blogger page, figuring out what everything did and whatnot when I discovered the stats page. Everybody likes a good stat. Especially birders with the tremendous amount of lists we each compile yearly. So you can imagine how the stats page was received. And this is where the boyish wonder comes in. This blog is still in its infancy (1 month and 5 days to be precise) but during that time 4 Americans, 2 Germans, 1 Dane and an Indonesian have had the misfortune pleasure of reading this blog. Hooded birder is international now, oh yes.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Garden birdage

After all that ranty wordness from earlier a shorter, easier on the eye post is the order of the day.

So... a few photo's of birds from the garden taken this summer will suffice.

Theres alot of Bullies around at the moment (up to 4 of each sex at a time). Like this male
      
And this female
                                                                 
And this terrible image of a Juvenile
There is generally loads of young stuff around at the moment with around 12 juv House Sparrows (pleasing) and around 6 Greenfinch being regular highlights. More occasional juv's seen at the minute include a couple of coal tits and a dunnock that is somehow surviving the gauntlet of feline attackers and being seen most days.

Yes this isnt a dunnock but it is the only Goldfinch ever that i've seen on our nut feeder!

Here are a couple of adults showing how its done

The undoubted prize for fledgling of the year goes to this beauty though;

This fellow has been visiting for around three weeks now and is absolutely hilarious, the most unco-ordinated woodpecker i've ever seen! He/She also likes to sit atop the bird feeders for minutes at a time just looking around like a chuffing parrot!


Other goodies seen in the garden include this young lady from last winter
Apologies but it was a dark day with a shit camera

and my first ever one of these that appeared whilst I was sat at the dining room table, eating a sandwich. I nearly fell off the chair!
Waxwing!!
Unfortunately this particular bird only lingered for around 30 seconds and as I spent most of that time faffing around trying to take the above crappograph I was left unsatisfied.
Fortunately about a week later whilst I was taking the girlfriend to the train station a flock of 20 starling sized chaps flew right over the car about 100 yards from my house and when I later investigated they were confirmed as Waxwings! This group lingered down the road from my house for over a month and peaked at about 100 birds. They were so close to the house I could wander to the end of my drive, peer down the road to see if they were sat in their favoured tree and then walk down if they were present! Here's the best photo I achieved of them.

Action shot. Oh yes

Crests

Up until around two months ago I always thought we only got Goldcrests in the garden during passage times - they can often be seen or heard singing in surrounding gardens during the Autumn and Spring passage. But this summer I've been hearing a bird singing from a few gardens up on several occasions and came to the conclusion that they must be resident! But where, that was the question. I found the answer to this pondering this morning when I walked up to the end of my road and along a footpath that links up with the estate behind the row of houses that I live in. The path runs parallel to the motorway and is separated from the noisy, pollution ridden road by a wedge of coniferous woodland (presumably planted to give the residents of my street some respite from the motorway noise - it doesnt work) and it was here I located what appeared to be a family party of 5 goldcrests! Boom! And also a wren. Boom! This does appear to be where they've bred and possibly explains why I only normally hear them intermittedly - because the area I found them is well out of earshot of the house they presumably only venture down the row of gardens far enough for me to hear them occasionally.
What was satisfying about this venture was that I hadn't even considered finding them there today, I'd wandered up there in the hope of possibly finding a warbler or two (failed miserably on that count) and with the intention of investigating the state of the den/treehouse that me and a neighbour had constructed in the woodland about 15 years ago! The "den" was in a right state and had appeared to have housed a tramp in the intervening years since my last visit! Either that or the foxes round here have taken to using cans of red stripe as bedding! Didnt even attempt the treehouse, it was unstable at the best of times and 15 years of rot would surely have meant total and complete death if I had climbed it. It's still standing though, I put that down to the superior building skills of two 9 year olds!
The visit did end up pissing me right off though, the footpath is almost never used anymore (the new housing estate on Queens Drive meant it was easier to use the footbridge that crosses the motorway further along) and as a result is terribly overgrown and cannot be classed as a footpath anymore. Or even a path for that matter. Now this wouldn't normally annoy me as im aware the footpath isn't used like it once was and I do take enjoyment in having to forge my own route through thick growth but what did piss me off was the amount of dumped waste down there. It was nearly all garden waste which I suppose is the best sort of dumped waste because it will at least decompose eventually but it still annoyed me. And this is why. I have my suspicions that all of it was dumped by the two houses closest to the footpath (there was a large amount of pampas grass cuttings, and who is the only one on the street with pampas grass? two from the end, thats who!) and this just strikes me as pure cunting laziness.
Blaby recycling centre is a 5 minute (probably less) drive away, infact you would be hard pushed to be closer to a suitable waste collection center and at this time of year it has a phenomenal area available for garden waste. So my neighbours decision to barrow his waste from his house to dump it on the nearby footpath probably spent more effort than if he had just taken it to the fucking tip in the first place!
And besides, even if they couldnt be arsed to take it to the tip, the local council will gladly rent you a garden waste bin if required and although yes, a small fee is required which works out at about £1.50 a month those fuckers in their 400k houses can surely afford it.
And even if you are tight and lazy theres a 3rd solution! Have a fucking compost heap in your fucking garden! The houses on this road all have pretty big gardens as gardens go (about 100m long) and each and every one has more than enough space for a compost heap. We have 3!

........Ah I feel better now, rant on here done and rant to the council sent.

Now for yesterday.....
As previously claimed, I did not drag myself out of bed early on Saturday morning to go to Rutland. I dragged myself out on saturday afternoon down to Jubilee park instead because there was definately going to be more interesting passage waders down there as opposed to that tiny pond in Rutland. Shockingly there wasnt. A hour down there produced a whopping 300+ Canada Geese (you know things are bad when you start counting them), a similar amount of Corvids, 4 Stock doves, 18 Lapwing, 2 whole tufted ducks, a mallard and a swan around the small lake. Wandering around aimlessly produced Song Thrush, GSW, singular Reed warbler and Blackcap, and a patch tick Skylark! Get in theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere. Yes thats how shit my patch is, skylarks are mega! Now I think on it I havent compiled a proper patch list. Must do that.
Still no Kingfisher here this year, will be the first year since I started fishing there in the mid 90's that I havn't seen one. On a slightly more positive note I havent seen any signal crayfish in the river this year either. Last year, particularly around the confluence with the Sence there were hundreds of the buggers!

Fish species seen yesterday:
Chub (one large individual that must have been pushing 4lb, cracking size for a summer chub)
Perch
Roach
Dace
Gudgeon (large shoal in the "beach" swim)
Minnow
3 Spined Stickleback (two at the confluence)

Friday, 12 August 2011

You will drive to the nearest cliff and throw yourself off it when you see this.

**Disclaimer**alcohol intake causes Hooded birder to refer to himself in the 3rd person.
Hooded birder has spent the evening filling himself full of Fosters and the chances of him getting out early in the morning for a spot of shitmuncher free birding at Rutland are quickly diminishing so a response to the Llamas entry of Best digiscoped image of 2011 is the most realistic target for the addled brain of the Hooded Birder. Have some of this:



This image even goes one further by being phonescoped.......prizes please.

Disclaimer

In preparation for the highly awaited unveiling of my collection of  bird photos, a modest disclaimer is needed I feel. The photos are terrible. I'm well aware of their ability to burn retinas and cause projectile vomiting. The "camera" used for all of my images is the one on the back of my phone (sony ericsson xperia x10) and is undeniably aweful. The poor camera is also further scuppered by the fact that pressing it against the telescope eyepiece results in no image whatsoever, for best results the camera lens needs to be hovered skillfully around 1cm away from the scopes eyepiece. Which is challenging. Despite all of the woes I face when taking a photo some of the results can possibly described as "not a complete bag of fetid shit".

See..... two wood sands at Eyebrook on Monday and they are almost identifiable!

................I will buy a camera at some point

Thursday, 11 August 2011

I'm alive

No-one reads this blog yet but fear not dear reader, the hooded birder isn't dead, his computer merely needed a new hard drive! Posts soon!