Friday, November 25, 2005


A nasty strong freezing wind originating in the north had me thinking it was worth checking the Dog in a Doublet on the off-chance an Auk had made it up to the tidal limit of the Nene. A good choice as there was this Shag sitting on the rocks very close to the sluice. It was hard to pick out at first, especially through the snow flurries blowing across, and I nearly missed it all together. It was perishingly cold in the wind but these shots aren't too bad. At one point a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail were next to the bird alongside the fish ladder.

The Dog in a Doublet is the place to see Shag in the PBC area. They can often stay for a while: the last one arrived on 18 Dec 2003 and stayed until 5 Jan 2004. See here for pictures.

This is the 197th species I've found in the PBC area. Roll on the 200!

The brownish plumage with prominent pale tips to the wing coverts age this as a first-winter bird.

Click on pics for a larger images.

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hardy Dragons

Common Darters are hardy chaps. The weather has been bitterly cold with hard frosts now every night for a week but the sunny calm days are providing warm pockets in places exposed to the sun. This is perfect for the few remaining dragonflies on the wing but even these can't expect to last much longer now. This one was basking at Stibbington GP.

Click on pic for a larger image.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

Nikon Coolpix 995

Green Wood again

The male Green Woodpecker was back again on our front grass feeding most of the morning under the birch trees. It has excavated some significant holes in the grass surrounded by neat, long, whitish pellets that reminded me of the bizarre Wryneck poo collecting crowd last year (see here!).

This prolonged visit provided me with some much-needed digiscoping practice but most pictures are a bit distorted by taking through double-glazing.

Click on pics for a larger images.

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Sometimes twitching gets a bad name but every now and then something turns up not too far from home that is just that bit special and you have to go for it. This Grey-cheeked Thrush was just 70 miles away near Cheshunt so a morning off work and an early start saw Weedon's World of Nature and I heading south on the A1. It turned out to be an excellent morning and we met up with several people we knew.

Although it made us search a good hour and a half in the freezing cold it eventually showed very well. It didn't help that when it stood still facing you it disappeared against the leafy backdrop of the woodland floor. I concentrated on taking notes rather than photographs (it was rather dark under the trees) but click here to see WWoN's photo.

For anyone who thinks this is just a small grey thrush think again. It is not like any bird I've seen before (this is the first Catharus species I've seen). It is small and dumpy like a Robin, has thrush-like speckling but feeds rather like a Wren. A cracking bird to watch.

Grey-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus), Northaw Great Wood CP.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Another look for the Scoter today in better light. They often only stay for a day and these were no exception (maybe two days for three of them). In the absence of anything better we resorted to a bit of duck digiscoping practice at Lynch Lake where a Water Rail swimming along the edge was a surprise.

There are some much better duck photos from this session on Weedon's World of Nature.

Click on pics for a larger images.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Common Scoter

Three female-type Common Scoter were found at Ferry Meadows on Monday and spent the day on Overton Lake. I decided to take a look early this morning but found no sign of the birds. However Ferry Meadows is an excellent site for birds and I had already seen a few Siskin, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Grey Wagtail before getting far from the car. Then I noticed an adult Bewick's Swan cruising across the lake - quite a good bird for Ferry Meadows.

The real surprise came though when I noticed a flock of ducks flying in from the west. A quick look with the bins revealled eight Common Scoter. I followed them closely looking for any signs of white in the wings (indicating Velvet Scoter)! they circled Overton Lake then headed back and appeared to land on Gunwade Lake. I made my way around there and sure enough there they were, all eight including a spanking adult male (a very rare sight in this area). Unfortunately it was still early and very cloudy and dull so photos were never going to be great.

The question is were any of the eight the same three that were present the day before or was it an entirely new flock? They are notoriously short stayers and I can quite believe the three buzzed off overnight and these arrived first thing. Terry swears there was no sign of them on Gunwade before 8am and I had been watching Overton before that. In any case this felt every bit like a find to me and takes my list of found birds in the PBC area to 196 species. Nearing that magic 200!

Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra), eight including one adult male
(Click on pic for a larger image)

Digiscoped with Nikon Coolpix 995 and Leica APO77 with 20x eyepiece.

Click here for pics of the flock of 20 at Ferry Meadows just over a year ago.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Reed Bunting and Green Woodpecker

A great day for birding from the house. New to the garden was a pair of Reed Buntings flying south along the river: 96th species and long overdue. I count anything I see from the house in that list so many have not landed in the garden as such. Green Woodpecker was one of those until today as this splendid male chose to feed on the small lawn under the birch trees right in front of the house.

I could hardly tear myself away from the upstairs window today as bird streamed past south along the Nene Valley. There was also a good display of Red Kites and a couple of Common Buzzards, up to 3 Snipe flew over the Water Meadows and a Sparrowhawk lingered in the village. Most of the birds listed here were on the Northants side of the river and passed during about 2 hours in the morning. There were also more passerines involved but most were too distant for confident ID (a lot were Chaffinches).
Skylark, 64
Woodpigeon, 3,150
Stock Dove, 127
Redwing, 70
Reed Bunting, 2
Jay, 1, high south over long distance
Fieldfare, 80
Lapwing, 35
Golden Plover, 16

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Nikon CP995 (too close for digiscoping!)