Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wagtail attack

Reader Brian Stone took this video of a Grey Wagtail, viciously attacking his car – see Brian's blog. The shameless vandalism took place today (29.11.07) at Newborough Fen, near Peterborough. The bird clearly had a problem with its own reflection.
Have you ever seen anything like this? Please let us know.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back on the patch

Production editor Matt Merritt writes:
I had a few days off last week, so used them to try to fill in some of the gaps on my patch year list, with an almost total lack of success. Not that they weren’t enjoyable, though. In fact, the lack of ticks meant I spent nearly all my time looking very closely at the familiar and everyday.

I started on Wednesday at a flooded Wanlip Meadows, where there were good numbers of Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. If forced to make a decision, they’d be my three favourite ducks, so it was good to sit there, with the air full of Wigeon whistles, watching them swimming in and out of the grass tussocks that line what would normally be the riverbank.

From there, it was off to Cossington Meadows (spotting a small flock of Goosander and a Sparrowhawk at Watermead Park on the way). Cossington was pretty flooded, too, so there were more of the same ducks, and a couple of Snipe, but little else. Oh, and at least 10,000 Starlings, even at 1pm in the afternoon. There was little of the spectacular formation flying going on, just a steady leap-frogging march as they fed across the grassy areas. Every now and then a little breakaway group of 500 or so would disappear for ten minutes, but numbers remained pretty constant, and the highlight was when the whole flock upped and moved a few hundred yards, passing overhead in a rush of wings.

Thursday, it rained. I dodged showers in the afternoon to sit in the hide at Kelham Bridge, watching the few ducks, Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something large, long-winged and pale gliding towards the hide. Thinking it might be a Great Black-backed, I waited for it to emerge from behind bushes. Another split-second glimpse of a whitish underside had me thinking Barn Owl, and then it came into full view – a big, unmistakeable male Hen Harrier, quartering the reedbeds and grassy scrub with wings held in a typical shallow harrier V. I watched it until it disappeared behind the hide, then ran out to try to follow. Just as, eventually, it flew out of sight over a hill, I bumped into two workmen from Severn Trent Water.

“You didn’t just see a big, silver-grey bird of prey go past, did you?” I asked.

“Why, have you lost one?” was the deadly serious reply.

On a gloriously sunny Friday, I thought I’d see if I could find the bird again, either at Kelham or at nearby Sence Valley Forest Park. No luck, despite there being plenty of likely Hen Harrier (and Short-eared Owl) haunts, but there were good scope views of feeding Snipe, and Stonechats popping up on top of bushes and fenceposts. The latter are one of my favourite small birds, and looked superb in the late afternoon sun.

Saturday was a write-off, thanks to the weather, so Sunday I went off in search of the Long-eared Owls reported from Bagworth Heath Woods. A fair few birders had the same idea, and although we didn’t find a single owl, standing staring at their roost site for three hours did allow us to see plenty of Goldfinches and Siskins, and a Kestrel hunting until the light had almost gone. We were all in the first stages of hypothermia by the end of it, but the banter was good. I’m usually a solitary birder, so it was a nice reminder that once in a while, it’s great to share birding time with a lot of highly knowledgeable, generous-minded, funny fellow obsessives.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Weedon's World, May 2007

Each month in Bird Watching magazine, Assistant Editor Mike Weedon writes a monthly column called Weedon's World.

Here is May 2007 for unseasonal starters. Click on the 'image' for a readable-sized version. Enjoy. And please let us know what you think of it in the Comment section, below.

In case you don't know, Bird Watching magazine is easily Britain's highest-selling monthly bird magazine. It is available from WHSmith etc and of course you can subcribe by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Assistant editor Mike Weedon writes:
Matt Merritt, Kevin Wilmot, Tom Bailey and I spent Monday (19.11.07) tyring out a different kind of bird race, which we will call a Mini-Sit. We spent exactly an hour in a theoretical 17-foot diameter circle, at each of three sites in the Peterborough area (all in Cambridgeshire), seeing how many species we could see and hear from each place. We chose the Nene way at Eldernell, east of Coates, a hide at Woodwalton Fen NNR and a high point at Ferry Meadows CP.
We were prelasantly surprised at the results, and you can read all about them in the January 2008 issue of Bird Watching
Some of the birds seen included Barn Owl and Stonechat at Eldernell...

Mike Weedon

Mike Weedon
...Teal in good numbers at Woodwalton Fen...

...and the inevitable Mallard at Ferry Meadows.

Mike Weedon
Boy did we struggle with Grey Herons, though, and we didn't record House Sparrow or Collared Dove at any of the sites!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Frosty morrning snaps

Grey Heron

What a beautiful bird the humble Moorhen is.

Lake reflected in a Coot.

Assistant Editor Mike Weedon writes:
I took advantage of some lovely frosty sunshine this morning and cycled my usual rouite in to work via Ferry Meadows (west Peterborough) with my DSLR strapped to my back. Here are some of the shots I took. Enjoy (and click them as usual for larger versions).
All photos were taken with a Canon Eos 30D with a 300f4 IS USM and 1.4x converter.
Don't worry, though, digiscoping fans, I use both technques in my day-to-day birdwatching, as there are benefits for both. Hopefully, we will be doing a feature on Digiscoping v DSLR (pros and cons) in early 2008 in Bird Watching magazine. Wath this space.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fieldfare digiscoping

Fieldfare, Tanholt pits, 10.11.07. Click on the photos for larger versions.

I digiscoped this Fieldfare in poor light at the weekend (10.11.07). I used a Canon PowerShot A640 handheld to a Kowa TSN-823 scope with a 32xW eyepiece. My only 'adapter' is a bit of crude plastic tubing to centre the lens.

Want to learn to digiscope birds using minimum fuss and no adapters?
Check this link
for our exclusive Digiscoping Made Easy DVD.