Monday, 31 October 2011

Few words, some images

Bunkers at Harrington Airfield

Convenient chair

view from chair.


well good photo of a SEO

Spot the shortie!

well good photo of a SEO #2

Friday, 28 October 2011

Time and a place

Now I like owls as much as the next person. Probably more infact. Much more. But when sleep is interrupted by a sexed-up Tawny Owl making an enormous amount of noise outside my window at 2am my previous opinion of owls goes out the window!
Shut up you feathered bugger and go and murder the local voles! Better still, have a go at one of the local cats, I bet you could have one. Have a punt at the fat one that looks like a Friesian cow. You know you want to.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


A bonanza of owls to be accurate. 14 sightings (plus two "heard onlys"!) over the past 2 days with 4 different species involved! I would now commence a long winded and ultimately boring post about these sightings but I cannot be bothered. The salient facts are this: all species have been seen besides Long-eared Owl and despite the large number of sightings not one photo has been obtained - mainly due to a combination of it being too dark/far away/flighty. To explain further stuff that flies around automatically excludes itself from having its photograph taken - its impossible for me to track a bird using the scope AND skillfully hover the phone camera about 1cm from the scope eyepiece AND press the "take photo" button at the same time. I don't have enough hands! Or the co-ordination. And owls (Short Eared and Barn in particular) like flying around and I can't take photo's of them. The end. Goodnight.

EDIT: I've just spied that Paul has just posted a few images from this evening so look at his site to get a feel for what my images would have been like had I taken some. I wasn't with Paul this evening (but I was yesterday, hence the irregular number of sightings for me!) but was viewing the same birds from a different, and further away spot. The key thing to remember however is that my images would have been much much worse. Plus I saw two barnies that he didn't so I win. Sort of.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

3rd time's a charm!

Taking full advantage of having a working automobile again I made my way over to Harrington Airfield at first light this morning hoping to strike third time lucky and finally see the Great Grey Shrike that seems to have chosen Harrington as its overwintering destination - I do hope it stays for the duration! Anyway, arriving on site just after 7.45am I was pleased to find myself being the only person present (because it is likely to be the first visitors of the day who will accidently put up a SEO) and wasted no time in walking the path through the scrub towards the first set of bunkers. I'd just reached the first set of bunkers when I picked up a bird flying straight towards me at a lowish height from the North. Looked a bit like a magpie in flight. Only smaller. Thats the boy! It did the decent thing and dropped onto a perch not too far away either - perfect for a bit of gratuitous scoping!
It stayed in this area for the best part of half an hour and even allowed me to move a tad nearer so I could take some crappy record shots as it flitted from perch to perch. What a cracking bird!

After feasting my eyes on the bird for a good while I was cocking about on my phone sending a couple of emails and whatnot and looked up and realised it had gone! Bugger! Another birder turned up shortly afterwards who had seen it flying southwards from the area that I had seen it in towards a very distant wood. I called time at that point as it seemed reasonable to suggest the bird wouldn't be returning for a good while and went and spent a couple of hours at Blueberry farm in the hope of shorties again. No shorties but loads of migrant thrushes along with single Merlin and Treecreeper.

On the way home Stanford reservoir produced this nice Grey Wagtail along the inflow channel too. The below image is phone-binned, my first attempt at that in ages!

So a productive morning out owls unfortunately, that might change later though!

Friday, 21 October 2011

two failures.....

Yep thats right, two attempts at seeing the Great Grey Shrike(s) at Harrington Airfield and two failures.

First was on Tuesday in the hope of completing a hat trick of lifers in as many days. The shrike had been seen about an hour previous to my arrival but none of the other birders that I encountered (there were a fair few) had seen it. I did see a Merlin over the entrance upon my arrival and the large flock of Golden Plover (I counted 427) provided entertainment whenever they were put up into the air.

Harrington on a nice calm day (not really, it was horrendously windy)

Plovers innit.

I walked the line of bunkers (visible in the distance of the top image) a few times in the end but got bored with seeing no Shrikes so I gave in and stopped at Blueberry farm (cheers Paul!), Maidwell for a lookie on the way back. Didn't see any SEO but a Peregrine at least gave me something to look at when it drifted over gaining height and then proceeded to stoop at what must have been 6,000 miles per hour. At least. Unfortunately lost it as it broke the skyline so I didn't manage to see the conclusion of the stoop but it was still the best that happened whilst I was there.

Blueberry farm - quality SEO habbo

And now we move onto today.....

After the news yesterday that two Shrikes had been seen together at the airfield after a paucity of sightings since Tuesday I headed back over to Harrington before uni this morning. I got there at about 10.30 (damned snooze button....) which gave me a nice window of two hours to hopefully pick up one of the birds before I had to go and learn about conservation and stuff. My beginning tactic today involved pulling over at the Memorial layby in the hope of (albeit distantly) picking up one of the birds in flight because although you can walk through the scrub patch and thus be close to the birds the density of the habitat means you can rarely see more than twenty yards in front of you. And so I chose the lay-by in the hope of a better overall view of Shrike land. This cunning  plan seemed cunning too. A birder had seen one, maybe two birds from that very spot not twenty minutes beforehand......
"I'm in here", I thought.
No I wasn't. At least they'd turned off the wind machine today.
Within minutes of arrival a Short Eared Owl was quartering up and down through the scrub patch however which admittedly did cheer me up as recently I've been trying for my first this Autumn and shorties are one of, if not my favourite birds.
About a hour into my allotted time I became paranoid that the Shrike were still in the scrub patch around the bunkers but were on the wrong side of it to be seen from the lay-by so I decided to give in with Plan A and go to plan B - walk the bunkers. So I did, and saw precisely zero shrike. But a guy walking about 20 yards infront of me accidently put up the Short Eared Owl from the long grass close to the path and it gave brilliant views - even better for the guy infront of me, he could have reached out and touched it! And then I ran out of time. So had to leave. Doesn't seem like they've been sighted since though....a crack of dawn jobbie seems the most realistic prospect of seeing them at this point. We'll see how that goes!


Monday, 17 October 2011

Got there in the End!

Allah, Vishnu and Megatron all combined to great affect over the past few days and kept the White Rumped Sandpiper at Rutland until this afternoon when I was finally free to go and see the little beastie. So after uni finished 15 mins early today I promptly legged it over to Rutland......actually I didnt, still couldn't resist checking a couple of SEO sites en-route in the hope of my first sighting this year (all of last winters sightings were before the new year, that mega cold snap pushed them out of these parts). So first stop was in Maidwell at a farm I've forgotten the name of where no Owls were seen but decent numbers of Yellowhammer were in evidence along with two decent sized flocks (perhaps 60 birds) of Redwing moving overhead.
Didn't linger here due to the appointment with the Sandpiper at Rutland but couldn't resist pulling over at the Memorial lay-by at Harrington Airfield in the hope of a shortie. Not to be. Also if I'd have bothered to check the Northants news page I'd have been informed that there was a Great Grey Shrike present. And a Hen Harrier. But I knew none of this. So off I went to Rutland where thankfully the bird was showing immediately as I entered the hide (which only had 3 people in it, much better than the reported masses from yesterday!)
and was actually rather close. See.....

best photo of rare ever.

I of course attempted a few phonescoped pics, here's a selection of "not completely terrible" images:





Myself and another fine gentleman in the hide then proceeded to try and pick out the American Wigeon amongst the masses of other duckies but no dice.
Leaving Rutland soon after I stopped off for a lookie at Great Easton in the continued hope of a SEO but again drew a was rather quite windy today and I wonder whether that put pay to my chances. Even my two best Little Owl sites failed to produce, whats going on!!?
But, at least we know what Hooded Birder is going to be doing tomorrow........Shrike hunting! In the attempt of getting 3 lifers in as many days!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

modest lifer!

Being relatively new to birding has several downsides (i.e. general incompetence) but also has one major upside - loads of ticks! I don't need to leg it across half the country because some stranded siberian waif has turned up in a grotty bush in Northumberland, I can happily bodge my way around local sites ticking the shit out of everything! Patch ticks, site ticks, year ticks, life ticks, might have ticked it before but im gunna tick it anyway ticks - they're fucking everywhere!
Today I wasn't very happy with life - instead of a potential life tick in the form of the WRS at Rutland I was subjected to driving to Sheffield to pick up Amy and then Manchester for some bemusing underground tour of Manchester that my darling twin sister had arranged (the ginger bitch).
Now the conurbations of Sheffield and Manchester don't offer much opportunity for lifers and the fact that I didn't take any optics with me also boded for a pretty birdless day but I wasn't to be denied!
So what was the life tick? Two Red Grouse thats what! Only fleeting glimpses were attained from the A57 running up Snake Pass towards Glossop - a superbly named pass!
I know, I know Red Grouse isn't much to sing and dance about and some of you may well be wondering how on earth I'd managed to reach the age of 25 without ever seeing one but the answer for that lies in where I live. Leicester. Leicester has no grouses and neither does Northamptonshire, Warwickshire or Norfolk (where I have done nearly all of my birding to date). So thats why i'd never seen one before. So fuck you! If you are looking for ammo poke fun at the fact that currently I've never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever seen a Skua! Not a single one. Of any species. Ever. Now that is laughable!
Other stuff seen from the car today (one day I will die in a mangled fireball because im incapable of keeping my eyes on the road) included Peregrine, several Raven and two Jay

Saturday, 15 October 2011

white rumped arsepiper

*the first part of this post was written at about 5.00 and the second at about 7.00 which will explain time discrepancies to anyone who reads this shortly after i've posted. Inbetween I ate copius amounts of roast lamb and went out owling briefly but didn't see anything....

Sometimes I really don't help myself with this county rare game........ all week I'd been planning to do a Eyebrook/Rutland combo today with the intention of shaking off my owl addiction but after a nice binge sleep I awoke to find the delights of Manchester United versus Liverpool kicking off shortly. Having been starved of proper football for two weeks by the international break plans of going to Rutland were quickly shelved............and then about an hour later (probably about the time I'd have been rolling into Egleton car park) I get the news of the not going to swear here so just invent an expletive as I used a wide variety of them at the time. And not only a WRS, an American Wigeon from the same hide! Alright, I saw the last Wigeon at Rutland so that wasn't as exciting but Yank Wigeon are still pant-wettingly rare in Leicestershire/Rutland!
Fortunately (for me) I quickly get another update indicating the white arsed bastard has disappeared and not been relocated! Rejoice! Back to an uninterrupted afternoon of watching gillette soccer saturday.

Until a few minutes ago when the little turd turned back up at Lapwing hide! And because of prior arrangements this evening I can't get there now today! Plus if I left now I'd have around 4 minutes once I got there to find it before it gets dark. Can't go tomorrow either because im in stupid Manchester visiting my stupid sister. On a stupid tour underground of Manchester of all things! And monday could be problematic as I'm either busy all morning hot air ballooning (you can't make this shit up!) or I've got a lecture in Northampton that doesn't finish until 1pm.....and I'd be outrageously surprised if Allah, Vishnu and Megatron allow the Sandpiper to linger until Monday afternoon.

And as a sidenote one of my lecturers asked me how many bird species exist in the world on Friday and set me the challenge of finding out so Jeff, this is for you!
-most internet sites of reference indicate around 10,000 but rarely give an exact figure.
-an earlier scientific estimate I found was by Sibley and Monroe in 1990 who attempted to list every biological bird species in their work titled Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World (abstract can be viewed freely HERE or in full on the same site if you are blessed with an Athens login). Their work originally cited 9672 species, adjusted to 9703 following a supplement publication in 1993. This data set has been cited in many other scholary articles (over 100 it seems) and seems to be a solid benchmark, not to mention that the article was published in the Wilson bulletin - a highly regarded Ornithological journal.
-however Hooded birder is not happy with that figure. This data set is nearly 20 years old now and will thus have excluded newly discovered stuff like this and this. Plus, ornithologists like to argue about sub-species and are forever re-classifying stuff as new species only to decide it wasn't separate after all. The advancement of identification using DNA technology in recent years has helped minimize these classification blunders however.
-Further sleuthing has discovered that Birdlife international now recognises 10,052 species (90% of which were originally listed by Sibley and Monroe) with a further 81 species sat in the waiting room with feathers crossed hoping to be recognized.
-Even further delving has discovered that the IOC World bird list 2.9 (July 2011) lists 10,448 species - a whopping 396 more than Birdlife!

so all I can conclude was that the internet estimates of 10,000 weren't far wrong although I suspect this number will rise over the next few years as the aforementioned DNA technology allows potential new species to be classified accurately. Extinctions due to worldwide habitat destruction might scupper that hypothesis a tad however...........

Monday, 10 October 2011

Spot the owl breadbins*

Whilst I waste time before my dentist appointment (toothache sucks) a game of Spot the Owl is in order! This one I must admit is a tad harder than usual but should still be relatively simple for you hardened birders to find!

On a side note it seems blogger didn't like my post from yesterday and has refused to acknowledge it on anyone elses blog roll...........blogger I hate you .........I don't really, blogger gave me the stats page and for that I am eternally thankful!

And as I've been sat typing this post look what turned up on the feeders!

Male Pecker!
Hopefully this will appear on blog rolls so the vial of smallpox I sent to blogger HQ will be made redundant............

EDIT: its all fucking go in the garden today! After yesterdays complaint a Coal Tit showed up but now standby for the best photo of a Goldcrest ever!
Ready? Holding on? Arms and legs inside the vehicle? Clean change of pants? Good, we may begin....

Garden rare bush - its unrelenting

DOUBLE EDIT: Managed a slightly better photo of the crest. Enjoy

*Breadbin - a play on the word bretheren. coz im down with street slang cha know

Sunday, 9 October 2011

More owls and a Wheatear.

More Owls! Recently I have found myself reluctant to do any "proper" birding - and by proper birding I mean heading out to somewhere like Rutland for the day on the hunt of passage goodies. I'm not sure whats caused the reluctance, probably the total lack of any passage waders moving through Leicestershire over the past couple of weeks. As a result of not being arsed to go wader hunting nearly all the birdwatching I've done recently has been Owl related. Im starting to wonder whether there is some truth in Amy's claims that Paul is "grooming" me and turning me against all other avian goodies!

In correlation with this claim I headed out nice and early this afternoon on the hunt for Little Owl with the hope of adding some more images to my increasing portfolio of "the internets worst owl images". On a side note im considering buying an actual camera within the next couple of months and am somewhat baffled at what to buy..... as a reasonably cheap starter set up im considering something like this.........any advice on this would be much appreciated as im currently bumbling around like a blind man in a cave.

So I went out for an Owl today with two new targets in mind to help spice things up. Target one was getting some images from sites that I'd never previously managed to do so and the second target was getting two owls in one shot - again, something I'd never managed! Well, Im pleased to report I failed miserably on both counts and only managed to get images of my photo-whore owls that always give themselves up and allow me to photograph them. Still, shouldn't complain:

I also plumbed new depths by taking my first ever video of an owl. Dont worry, its only 12 seconds long so won't offend you're eyes for too long!

My travels today took me past Frolesworth so I stopped off for a while and grilled the horse paddocks in the hope of a nice Wheatear or Whinchat and thankfully saw the former... any comments on the race of this bird would be welcome, the bird had a very buff orangey front and pointed the stringy side of my brain towards the Greenland race but i'm just not sure......

see....very buff

In other news a single Swallow was seen in Peatling Magna on my travels today and 3 Buzzards were soaring over Ullesthorpe golf club. Garden sightings recently have included the first (4) Long tailed tits for a couple of months and we are now being regularly visited by two Greater spotted Woodpeckers (one of each sex), which is nice to see as during the summer months Woodpecker sightings tail off hugely in our garden. Mumsy had a probable Siskin yesterday too which was gripping but also satisfying as in a recent post I claimed the garden looked good for Siskin this year and BLAM! One turns up! In terms of stuff i'm no longer seeing in the garden Coal tit haven't been seen for a couple of weeks and Bullfinch sightings have slowed to a trickle.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

As promised....

Went out and took some Little Owl images today and I was rather pleased with some of the results.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


Apologies for the lack of posts over the last week or so, many non-bird related things have got in the way such as turning 25 and a 3 day jaunt down to Bristol this weekend for my mate Rory's stag do. The fellow stags are a great bunch of lads but quite frankly couldn't give a toss about birdwatching (whilst hovercraft racing yesterday I pointed out a red kite being mobbed by corvids and was widely ridiculed) so not much birding was done but I did manage a couple of hours of "skywatching" from the lofty position of the 15th floor of the fine establishment that is Premier Inn. A couple of Peregrine sightings were rewards for my effort - and by effort I mean lying in bed with a spanking headache staring out of the conveniently positioned window.

In the evening I attempted to go out for an Owl and found a likely looking spot where I might get some good advice on where to go but was sadly mistaken....

Anyway, lets get back to talking about actual birds back in the mighty Leicestershire! By the way did anyone else see the Peregrine sitting in the rafters on the television coverage of the City vs Derby game? I had a season ticket there for a number of seasons and never saw a hint of one! I didn't tend to spend much time looking upwards mind unless it was to ask the almighty why o' why was Trevor Benjamin getting into the team.

About a week ago I had a garden tick in the form of a Willow Warbler that admittedly had me convinced it was a chiffchaff (as it was nearing the end of September and is generally quite late for a willow) but after getting a good shufty at it all signs pointed at Willow and although my warbler identification skills are severly lacking im competent with the commoner species and it just felt like one rather than a chiff. Not that I would have minded it being a chiff, that would have been a garden tick too! Two Goldcrest were also present in the garden at the same time which were the first actually seen within the confines of the garden this autumn.

garden rare bush scores again!
The Greenfinch numbers in the garden are at their highest for a number of years at the moment (a flock of around 20-30 birds is regular) which bodes well for Siskin sightings this winter - the drop in Greenfinch numbers in the garden over the last few years has coincided with the number of Siskin sightings also falling. I thought i'd take a few shots of the Greenfinch and found a couple of surprises - in both the images below keen eyed readers will see the adult birds have been ringed, I don't know of any ringing activity in the immediate area of here (except perhaps intermittedly at Narborough Bog) so I wonder where they came from!? Secondly the bird in the second image has extremely dilated pupils - a feature I've never seen and makes me wonder whether the bird has an illness/infection of some kind. I believe the reddish substance around its beak isn't blood, but rather the juice of blackberries.

In terms of my Owling I've not been out as much as I'd like to but managed to meet up with Paul one evening last week where we pootled around visiting a few of the sites that we mutually know about and discussed the favoured subject - owls. In our travels we may have stumbled across a couple of new owl sites for Paul that if confirmed (we only heard the birds, didn't get a visual sighting) will take him over the magic 200 mark in terms of Owl sites that he has found. Considering Leicestershire had about 20 known sites before he commenced his work its fairly safe to say that he's done fucking well so far!
The evening after I nipped out briefly in the hope of a quick birthday owl before I went to the pub and picked up 3 of the juveniles at Pauls star site which were spread out far and wide which sadly suggests the days of sticking your head over a hedge and seeing 4-5 owls all neatly lined up for you to look at are sadly numbered!

No new photos of owls unfortunately (I aim to remedy this this week) but I did manage a photo of the extraordinarily rare and extremely elusive Three Legged Buzzard:

and this shittograph of two juvenile Linnet that I tried my hardest to string into Corn Bunting but thankfully common sense prevailed and the correct (I hope!) identification was achieved.

Corn Linnets