Monday, December 31, 2012

First days with the SX50

Why the SX50? Well I had a great time with my SX10 before it gave up the ghost and I wasn't happy with the SX30 as a replacement so that got sent back. The DSLR has been fine but the lens has developed some play and will have to be sent for repair. I miss the zoom range and excellent macro of the SX10 so thought I'd try out the latest Canon bridge which has been getting good write ups.

Not really had chance to do much with it yet and the weather has been largely against us but here are a few snaps. The 50x optical zoom certainly makes quite a difference but so far I feel there is a quite a lot of noise in the shots. These were all taken in JPEG mode and I think the default sharpening is quite aggressive. I'll be trying some RAW tests tomorrow with luck.

The Dunnock was taken in very dull difficult conditions and the Pied Wagtail is a fairly heavy crop of a rather distant bird.

Collared Doves Streptopelia decaocto

Dunnock Prunella modularis

Jackdaw Corvus monedula

Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter Moth

One way or another I didn't get much mothing done in 2012. Hopefully things will be different in 2013, especially I plan to get involved in this pan-species challenge and moths will be a big part of the total. Anyway this little fella is one of the few moths active as an adult during the winter months and one was on the kitchen window last night.

Winter Moth Operophtera brumata
Canon Powershot A640

Alpine Slamander

Somehow forgot to post these photos and video from our trip to the Alps in the summer. One of the highlights of the year for me was finding several of these in steep woodland near Trummelbach in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland.

Alpine Salamander Salamandra atra

Friday, December 14, 2012

The sad side of Waxwing invasions

If you aren't keen on pictures of dead birds avoid scrolling to the bottom of this article. The bird is in very good condition but is one of the victims of a building designed without a thought to the effect it might have on our wildlife.

For the past three years one of the workers at Stuart House in Peterborough has been trying to get something done about the high number of casualties resulting from birds flying into the vast walls of glass created by the building's windows. The catalogue over the years has included Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and several Woodcocks as well as many of the more familiar city birds.

Things have come to a head this week with the arrival of a party of Waxwings. The problem is that the building forms a crescent around a small grove of trees including a small rowan the birds have been feeding on. The mirrored windows reflect the trees making it look like a good escape route with the result that 10 birds have been found dead at the foot of the walls in the space of just a few days. The maximum flock size was 43 so this is a seriously high rate of attrition.

In the end I suggested knocking the remaining berries from the tree and sweeping up all the food. Better that the birds are forced to move on and find another source that might be less of a threat. This seems to have had the desired effect and the birds have not been seen since.

Waxwings are somewhat vulnerable in years like this when their usual food supply in largely rural Scandinavia fails and they are forced to migrate further to the berry-laden carparks of urban Britain. The large flock at Werrington recently sustained a few losses to passing traffic as they used puddles to drink. A common problem perhaps made worse by the levels of alcohol they can consume while eating the overripe berries making them temporarily less capable of avoiding hazards. In fact a fox had taken to hanging around the Stuart House site perhaps recognising the opportunity to pounce on an inebriated Waxwing or two.

The need to drink can pose yet another problem in cold weather as the salt used to treat icy roads can concentrate in puddles at dangerous levels leading to some suspected deaths from poisoning.

So while it is great to see these exotic visitors when they do come here we need to recognise the dangers they face while trying to survive the winter. I wonder how many will make it back to Siberia to breed next year.

In Peterborough we are trying to persuade the owners of the building responsible for the death of so many Waxwings and others birds to consider methods of making the windows more obvious to passing birds. Let's hope they will see sense. 

The photo is below:

Waxwing - one of the many victims of Stuart House.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sunny Waxwings

More Waxwing action in Werrington today in beautiful sunshine. Counted 101 birds in the flock.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wax On

Wax on...

Wax off...

Another big flock of up to 70 in Werrington.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Waxwings, Elton

A large flock of Waxwings has been building up around Elton Furze at the north end of Bullock Road. With blue skies today it was too tempting and I nipped out there at lunchtime. I reckon there were 60-80 present mainly feeding on hawthorn along the edge of the golf course.
Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Blyth's Reed

Last night I got a call to look at a photo of a warbler taken at Ferry Meadows Country Park on Friday by Roy Norris. Cetti's Warbler was suggested but it was clearly more like a Reed Warbler. No sooner had I posted the link on the newsgroups did I have a call from Chris Batty of Rare Bird Alert explaining it was virtually certainly a Blyth's Reed Warbler, an extreme rarity from central Asia. This would be the first for Cambridgeshire and one of only a handful of inland records.

Today I should have been manning a climbing tower at the Trek Kits open day in Oundle but high winds and flooding meant I could get to Ferry Meadows for a search. Another 10 or so birders were there but we had no luck.

This Chiffchaff was very showy though and there was a rather pale-headed Long-tailed Tit among a flock of more regular birds. I've included the only poor shot I managed of the pale one along with another for comparison.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sir Peter Scott Walk

Not often been to the Nene Mouth, which is odd as it isn't that far away. Today was gloriously sunny so we headed back to the wash for more Brent Goose action. A good flock of Twite were here along with a few Water Pipits. Plenty of waders and wildfowl, gradually becoming more distant on the falling tide plus several parties of Common Seals, some quite close, numbering up to 50.

Surprised to find there is a still a small wildfowl collection at the lighthouse where Sir Peter Scott lived. This included 4 Red-breasted Geese and some Snow Geese types. The original collection moved from here to Slimbridge when he left kicking off what was to become the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.


Common Seals, etc.

Digiscoped with Canon Powershot A640 and Leica APO77 x32

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Short-eared Owl

During one of my regular vigils of the Nene Valley from home this morning I was astonished to locate a Short-eared Owl circling high above the water meadows (Fotheringhay parish). It headed off west and I thought it that was the last I'd see of it as it continued to migrate. However at 10:30 it was back flying high again, this time heading south. Presumably looking to linger at some suitable habitat.

Unexpected garden tick: 109th species seen from home.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Waxwings, Fengate

Reported from Fengate this morning, I relocated a flock of 28 birds opposite Activity World this lunchtime. Virtually no light for photography unfortunately.

Canon Powershot A640 and Leica APO77 x20

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

An excellent day at Frampton Marsh RSPB in beautiful weather. Several Twite, Siskin and Redpoll flying over, a couple of Hen Harriers and plenty of waders.

Canon Powershot A640 and Leica APO77 x20 (flight shot with Canon EOS 500D 70-300mm IS USM).

Ravens again

Brilliant sight of two Ravens low over the house this morning. They were close together, 'interacting' and calling. The second time we have had them here now. Personally I'll be very happy for them to become a regular sight around here, but I think it's about time the county records committee dropped it as a description species.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Triller Thrillers

Well a Waxwing invasion seems to be well underway. Hundreds being reported acoss the country and three small flocks have flown over my office in Peterborough today. There should be many more to come as it is quite early in the winter to be seeing so many. Listen out for the distinctive trilling call.

The search is now on to find some lingering around here. Keep an eye on any berry-laden trees: they are especially fond of shopping centre carparks for some reason!


Read about this trip, and many more, in this month's issue of Birdwatching magazine.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fungi, Bedford Purlieus

Some fungi in Bedford Purlieus today. I have very little idea when it comes to fungi. Please comment if you can help with id. Thanks

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Slow Worm

An excellent coming home present. This wonderful lizard was making its way slowly across the path in Leckford.

Slow Worm Anguis fragilis

Sunday, October 14, 2012

West Penwith again

A few days in West Penwith staying at St Ives. Little birding but some sea movement and a couple of Balearic Shearwaters, some Common Scoters and plenty of auks and Gannets. The usual suspects on the cliffs.

Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Phonescoped with HTC One X and Leica APO77 x32

Friday, September 28, 2012

Whinchat, Beeby's BP

Found this morning on the long, low mound towards the east of the complex.

Digiscoped with Canon A640 and Swarowski ATM 80 HD x25-50

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Common Scoter, Ferry Meadows

Found by Paul Taylor on Gunwade Lake and showing very well there at times.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra, male

Phonescoped with HTC One X and Swarowski ATM 80 HD x25-50

Monday, September 24, 2012

Venice Lagoon

No Silver Wedding Anniversary trip to Venice would be complete without a jaunt out into the lagoon. This one produced a few waders and terns, the odd Cetti's Warbler and a Whinchat on Torcello, plus these:

Italian Sparrow Passer (domesticus) italiae

Short-tailed Blue Cupido argiades

Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis

Canon EOS500D 18-55mm IS USM