Monday, March 31, 2008


In addition to the events listings in Bird Watching magazine, we will be listing birdwatching-related events on this blog. Scroll down the sidebar to just below Breaking News, click on the link, and you'll find April 2008's events.

If you have an event that you'd like added to the listings, email us at: and we'll post it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

May 2008

Now in a shop near you...

Our May 2008 issue is packed with advice and inspiration to help you get more from your birding this month:

Major binoculars survey. An in-depth look at four of the best 8x32 binoculars on the market.

Finders keepers. Seven unmissable pages to help you find that bird-of-a-lifetime.

How to photograph birds in flight. All you need to make your garden the place to photograph birds.

A holiday in bird-rich Scotland.

Go Birding. 10 exciting bird walks for the month of May.

Photography special. Portraits of London Grey Herons.

Secret lives: Fascinating facts about the Great Crested Grebe.

Identify: Kites and Marsh Harrier in flight.

It's all in the May 2008 issue of Bird Watching magazine. Don't miss it!

Plus Plus PLUS – Ten new Go Birding walks to try; unique site-by-site guide to all the best birds of March 2008; page after page of ideas for May birding, and so much more!

Go buy it! Or subscribe here:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker digiscoped in video by Mike Weedon at Woodwalton Fen NNR, Cambs, on 24.3.08.
Pump up the volume!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Out now!

Production Editor Matt Merritt writes:

I’m going to ask all of you out there to allow me to indulge in a spot of shameless self-promotion for a few moments.

When I’m not hard at work here at Bird Watching Towers (gazing out of the window trying to add to our year list), I dabble in the world of poetry, and my first full-length collection has just been released by Arrowhead Press. It’s called Troy Town, it’s in hardback, it’s 80 pages long, and the splendid cover pic was taken by Bird Watching photographer Tom Bailey. Not surprisingly, given my interests and line of work, there are plenty of birds in the poems, although there are plenty of other things too.

Should any of you wish to buy a copy (£8.99 including p&p), you can do so here, or directly from me, at my Troy Town blog, which contains further information, reviews, etc.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flight photography

Assisitant editor Mike Weedon writes:

In our May issue, we will have a special practical feature by Elliott Neep on photographing birds in flight. Kevin Wilmot and I went to try out one or two techniques that Elliott recommends, at Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough. So, Kevin chucked the bread and I took the shots, while Trevor Ward photographed us in action.

Here is one of the results, a Black-headed Gull:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our office swan

Assistant editor Mike Weedon writes:
This Mute Swan is one of a pair that were blown into the pond outside our office in the high winds. They are preoccupied with courtship dancing, but this one came to see me, spotting, perhaps that I was scoffing chips...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Want to guard godwits?

Black-tailed Godwit © Mike Weedon

The RSPB and Fylde Bird club are looking for volunteers to help man a 24-hour guard for breeding Black-tailed Godwits – to protect them from egg-thieves.

Each year one or two pairs of the endangered Black-tailed Godwit nest on marshland near Freckleton on the Ribble estuary, near Preston, Lancashire.

RSPB project officer Carol Coupe said: “We are asking for the support of people to get involved by giving just a few hours of their time to help watch over the nest site.

“Volunteers do not need to be knowledgeable about birds as training will be given and there is a huge amount of satisfaction in helping to safeguard the only nests in the North West of these rare and beautiful birds.”

For more information about volunteering should contact Carol Coupe
tel: 01995 642 251

Monday, March 10, 2008

Window list latest

The BW office window year list has taken another few steps forward (so we are still just pipping the RSPB webteam...).

Recent additions are:
Grey Heron (27.2.08)
Red Kite (3.3.08) and
Wigeon (10.3.08)

The total is now 41 species.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Garden Goldfinch

Here is the latest digiscoped effort from editor Kevin Wilmot's back garden. This time, though, it was his wife Nikki who came up with the shot of this Goldfinch, feeding on niger seeds. (Feel free to click on the shot for a larger version)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Kev's digiscoping

Griffon Vulture

Black and Griffon Vultures

White Stork, with squatting House and Spanish Sparrows

White Stork

Blue Rock Thrush in mid-leap

Griffon Vulture
Kevin Wilmot is certainly improving his digiscoping! He has recently returned from Extremadura, Spain with these excellent efforts (click each image for a larger version). All images were taken with a Nikon P5000 camera hand-held to a Swarovski ATS 65 HD scope with a 30x eyepiece.

Monday, March 3, 2008

At my wits' end

Assistant editor Mike Weedon writes:

I don't think I have seen such large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits as were rising up from the RSPB Nene Washes, Cambridgeshire yesterday. I estimated there may be 5,000 birds in the air. So, to try to present some evidence of this count, I photographed one of the flocks (even though they were miles away).

I have put coloured spots on each godwit (grouped in 50s), and reckon there are about 3,000 birds visible in this flock. Add together another couple of flocks, and I think you could comfortably reach 5,000...


Production editor Matt Merritt writes:

I was on holiday last week, so managed to get out and about and do a fair bit of birding. There was a definite feeling of spring in the air, and I had high hopes of finding a few waders on the move through my local patch, plus filling in some strangely elusive year ticks (where have all the local Little Grebes gone?). I had a loose schedule of local gravel pits, pools, etc planned.

One of the best things about birding, though, is that it springs its best moments on you just when you’re least expecting them. On Monday, I was strolling back to my house from the nearby leisure centre, and was moderately alert for raptors, having noticed the Jackdaws, Rooks and Woodpigeons getting a bit noisy and edgy. Nothing was in sight, though, so I strolled on and was about to turn the corner into my road (pictured above). Suddenly, above the trees in Whitwick churchyard, there were two soaring Sparrowhawks, one of them an impressively large female, and the other a much smaller male. As I watched, the female dropped like a stone into the trees, while the male swept in a shallower dive across the road towards me, scattering pigeons and Jackdaws as he came. Woodpigeons, of course, are hopelessly slow off the mark, and the hunter streaked towards one, gaining all the time. I braced myself for the collision a few yards ahead of me, expecting a sickening thump and a cloud of feathers, but at the last moment he slammed the brakes on and glided gently over the pigeon’s head, clearly having realised at the last moment that his quarry was just a bit bigger than he had thought.

Later that day, I was up at Charnwood Lodge, a Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust reserve a couple of miles away. On a blustery day, as it was, it can be a pretty bleak place, with the granite outcrops and bracken giving it far more of an upland feel than you might expect in the supposedly gently rolling East Midlands. In the woods around the little reservoir, tit and finch flocks were noisily moving around, and there was regular yaffling from a nearby Green Woodpecker. Best of all, though, was seeing two different pairs of Treecreepers. Presumably the breeding season was already getting into swing, because in both cases, two birds arrived on the same tree, then pursued each other up it in quick spirals like little clockwork toys.

As I made my way back towards the entrance, I made my usual stop to scan a particular bare tree on the edge of the reserve (pictured above). It often holds Great Spotted Woodpeckers (sure enough, one was there), as well as winter thrushes (again, my luck was in, with three Fieldfares and a couple of dozen Redwings). The field beyond, looking towards Mount St Bernard’s Abbey, is good for Red-legged Partridges and Yellowhammers. As I searched for them, my attention was caught by what looked like a large crow but quickly resolved itself into a Raven, increasingly familiar around Charnwood Forest. Quite apart from the sheer size, its cross shape in flight is distinctive, and it flew with power and grace, occasionally tumbling and rolling seemingly for the sheer pleasure of it. If I’d had any doubts as to its identity, they’d have been dispelled by the three loud ‘gronk’ calls it made as it headed towards the monastery (one friend has told me that they occasionally turn up there to look for scraps around the picnic tables). Where the cawing of crows and rooks immediately calls to mind gentle, typically British farmland, the croaking of Ravens says wild, untamed landscapes, and even something supernatural.

So, the waders remained elusive, save for four flyover Oystercatchers and a solitary Redshank at Cossington Meadows later in the week, but they can wait. Sometimes you just have to take what’s on offer.