Thursday, 28 June 2012

Cribbs Meadow

Today's volunteering task was at Cribbs Meadow, yet again another reserve that tries very hard to not be in Leicestershire, the nearest village (South Witham) is in Lincolnshire!

The task today centred around the removal of Ragwort from both meadows on site and was a nice break from removing thistles, at least we're not just focusing on one species, was beginning to feel a bit hate crime-ish with the poor Creeping Thistles!

Cribbs Meadow itself was absolutely filled with these:

Common Spotted Orchid
And the area around the railway embankment with its inviting piles of logs were also home to plenty of Common Lizard despite the area being rather damp underfoot;

Common Lizard

Common Lizard - the stuff in the background is water

3/4 Common Lizard
In other news Leicestershire was battered by some extreme weather today - apocolyptic rain and hailstones etc and we were rather lucky that most of the weather just missed our work party but two minutes after leaving the site this afternoon the rain became so heavy I had to pull over because I couldnt see where I was going! Cue flooded roads, uprooted trees and all other sorts of mischief on the way back. Funsies.

Epic Sky at Cribbs Meadow

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Ton Up!

This marks the 100th post on this blog, hoo-rah...

In an ideal world I would have marked such a momentus occasion with something a thrilling write-up of a trip out birding.....or maybe a few nice images that I've been saving for such an occasion.....too bad forward planning isn't a strong point of mine eh?

Anyway what you do get are a few images taken today whilst volunteering at Dimminsdale NR, another one of the LRWT reserves that tries its very hardest to be as far away from Leicester as possible whilst still being in the county, close to the banks of Staunton Harold reservoir.

Todays task involved the never ending task of thistle removal from one of the meadows, (or as I like to think of it, targeted plant genocide) with the overrall aim of creating some nutrient-poor acidic grassland which is one of the scarcer NVC communities found in Britain.

Staunton Harold reservoir

Predator + Prey

Foreground - finished product, acidic grassland.
Background - work in progress (thistle territory)

More finished product

Old limestone quarry, now much easier on the eye

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bit of a lull....

Look at the general paucity of news for Leicestershire this week, pretty much sums up the lack of anything decent to go and look at:

Slim pickings, especially as I reported the Turtle Dove! So that leaves 11 Crossbills as the only thing noteworthy, and they were a flyover!
The weather has been pretty terrible recently too so I've not even been inclined to go out Owling....although Paul has clearly had some success recently so maybe I should get out anyway and try and bag an image of a juvenile.
....Maybe tomorrow.

Many birders at this time of year switch over to molesting butterflies, orchids and suchlike and I'm beginning to see why! Now, if only I knew about something other than birds! To be fair my freshwater fish knowledge is pretty good, but the prospect of cleaning/sorting out my neglected fishing equipment is a step too far, it'll take ages. I'll have to stick to whinging about birds I think, only 3 and a bit months until October!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Overdue county tick

Turtle Dove finally hit the back of the net this morning at Wymondham rough, singing near the entrance at c.10am, a long overdue county tick and one I'm glad to get - Its not hard to imagine in 30years time me taunting the next generation of Leicester birders with, "well, I've got Turtle Dove on my county list, so suck on that" such is the sad decline of this species in Britain. Happily they are still common on the continent but their days as a breeding species in Britain do seem to be numbered.

You might ask why I was at Wymondham rough (a solid hours drive from my house, somewhere near Melton) at 10am this morning - It was my first session volunteering with the LRWT as part of their weekly habitat management programme. This is something I should have been doing ages ago as not only does it give me valuable practical experience in the job sector that I wish to build a career in, it also gives me the opportunity to improve my identification skills on things that arent birds as my knowledge is woefully incomplete with anything that doesn't have feathers! Anyway, the task today was removing invasive creeping thistles from a large section of meadowland. These highly opportunistic thistles can spread rapidly and quickly become dominant within an area if left unmanaged and so regular efforts are made to keep them under control at this site.

Site of mass thistle genocide

In other news the pain of having that Lampard goal disallowed in Bloemfontein was lessened slightly this evening when England became the benefactors of a similar decision and managed to sneak to the top of their group! Bring on the Italians, lets have it!

Saturday, 16 June 2012


Bit of excitement in the garden about an hour ago as a Sparrowhawk took a juvenile Starling off the feeders and then sat with it on the lawn for a few moments, allowing for a couple of photographs through the patio window which are certainly the best I've ever taken of this species;

Friday, 15 June 2012

Can't beat a bit of bully

As there was a bit of sunshine knocking around this morning I decided to bodge a hide together near the feeders in the garden in the hope of getting some shots of the regular Bullfinch.
The hide itself is a ramshackle piece of equipment consisting of one garden table raised up on three garden chairs, two bedsheets draped over the top, spyholes cut for camera (on tripod) and general surveilance and finally, one hooded birder sat underneath the lot, sniggering.


It worked quite well to be honest, hadn't been out there that long when four Bullfinch (three males) turned up and fed quite happily just a few feet away, allowing for a few nice shots, especially of the female who was very content to feed on the fallen seed under the feeders and provide a few nice full-framers without the feeders etc ruining the naturalness of the image;

A relatively violent shower has just caused a retreat to review my images, write this blog post and eat a bacon sandwich but if it brightens up I'll give it another stab and see if I can nail a flight shot or of two males squabbling (they do that alot!).

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Embarked on what I consider to be my first long-distance twitch today - I often twitch county birds but rarely travel out of county (the Red foot yesterday was the first time I'd ever even done that) specifically for a bird. You could argue seeing the Wilsons Phalarope at Welney or dipping on the Western Sand at Cley is classed as long distance twitching but in my eyes both those birds were just a small sidetrack from a "wider" day out birding, a convenient bonus if you will.

Today though I finally cracked.... I dont know what pushed me over the edge, perhaps it was the woe of spending most of yesterday freezing to death on a riverbank in Derbyshire looking for a falcon that had been found deceased several hours previously, perhaps it was the fact that on birdmap there had been a large square over East Yorkshire for several days saying, "look you idiot, there's a spanking Roller just here, go and see it". Who knows? Not me, thats for sure. Either way, with my portable paying-for-petrol device (mother) in tow, I made the journey north from Leics and two and a half hours later I arrived at the strangely empty car park (Bewick Hall) and made the short walk to the area where a dozen or so birders were staring intently across a crop field. Two minutes later I was feasting my eyes (albeit distantly) on a cracking Roller! I clearly don't need to mention that this was a lifer, but it was. And it was good.

Roller twitch

Always nice when there's a giant arrow pointing towards the bird

which, to be fair, was ****ing miles away
Views were distant but adequate of what was clearly a gorgeous Roller but it seemed quite happy on its current perch so after a while we carried on up the coast to Hornsea where sausage and chips was discovered to be showing well on the sea-front along with an interpretive board with a tremendous error on it.



A brief look at Hornsea mere for the departed Red-necked Phalarope was the next port of call before heading back to see if the Roller had moved back to its favoured white post/tilled field area, again parking in the strangely empty car park. Two minutes later and bingo! Roller on a white post next to a tilled field, about three quarters of a mile closer than it had been previously! Jackpot! Still a bit too far away for my baby lens to cope with but a couple are sort-of usable along with a couple from the trusty galaxy:

And it was here, of course where I discovered why the carpark was so empty.....

literally a two minute walk...

Monday, 11 June 2012


Finally got the better of me today, I dont normally travel out of county specifically for a bird but in the case of the Red-footed Falcon that has been lingering for about a week just over the border in Derbyshire I decided to bite the bullet and go this morning despite the weather being less than ideal....

Long story short: 6 hours on site and no Red-foot. Boo. It also felt much more like November rather than June standing on the banks of the windswept Trent. At least it rained a lot less than it has here in Leicester today so I stayed more or less dry. Kingfisher, two Hobby and oodles of hirundines did little to cheer me up either.

Massive temptation to go and twitch the Roller in Yorks tomorrow now....we'll see how that goes!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Its been a while...

But in my defence I've not done much birding at all since the trip to Rutland a couple of weeks ago and its been generally quiet across the county so there wasn't anything to blog about really!
Until today.....
When I went Owling earlier this afternoon and saw 4 birds at three sites including the first evidence of breeding success (owlets heard hissing) that I've witnessed this year which was nice. Too bad I'd accidentally switched my camera to a different setting to usual and didnt realise until I got home - the result is many of the days "best" images being completely useless!
A couple survived however and are just about publishable:

Aside from the Owling earlier the garden has exploded into life recently with the numbers of most garden species being swelled by an influx of fledged juveniles. Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Starling, House Sparrow and Greenfinch youngsters have all been noted in the garden this morning along with a glorious count of 5 adult Bullfinch - they have become increasingly regular over the past few years in the garden with at least a pair being seen most days but its not often that we get 5 at once;