Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Better fisher than me!

Editor Kevin Wilmot writes:

As a lifelong angler as well as a birdwatcher, I've grown used to seeing Kingfishers regularly, although I've never been fortunate enough to have one settle on my fishing rod. However, Saturday's sighting was little more exciting than the norm. I was preparing for a fishing competition on Raveley Drain, which borders the nature reserve at Woodwalton Fen in Cambridgeshire. After watching a pair of Treecreepers spiralling up the tree opposite, a blue flash caught my eye and sure enough a Kingfisher was darting along the drain, stopping suddenly on a small branch only 10 metres or so away from where I was sitting.

It stayed motionless for a few seconds before plunging into the water for a tiny fish which it carried away along the drain. Fantastic, and something I'd never seen at such close quarters before. My day's fishing was not quite so successful - it took me ages to catch anything at all!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunday am, Woodwalton Fen

Assistant editor Mike Weedon writes (with help from guest Will Bowell):

Hen Harrier, digiscoped at about 500m using Kevin 'Pinky' Du Rose's patent elastic band and key-ring 'adapter'...
All with Canon PowerShot A95 with Kowa TSN-823M + 32xW
(click photo for bigger version)

Had a very pleasant (though annoyingly cold) morning at Woodwalton Fen NNR, Cambs, with Ray and Will Bowell yesterday (18.2.07). Will tells the tale on his website, so I thought I'd just rip it off (blame any grammatical errors and spelling quirks on him not Bird Watching Magazine):

"Woodwalton wanders
Had a fairly early start, picking up the Doctor [that's Will's term for me] at just gone 8, we headed south to Woodwalton Fen. The plan was to sit it out in the hide overlooking Gordon's Mere on the reserve in the hope of being rewarded with views of Bittern, as demonstrated in Nigel Triggs' photos, which can be viewed here.
On the way to the hide, a couple of Lesser Redpolls flew over; a PBC year tick for me at least. We spent a couple of hours in the hide; a Cetti's Warbler burst into song by the side of the hide and showed well in the bushes, before disappearing. This is actually only the second I have ever had in the PBC area! An hour or so later, a Bittern came in, landing in the middle of reeds out of view as per usual. Two PBC elite species in the space of couple of hours, all from one hide!
After waiting for a while, to see if the Bittern would come to the edge of the reeds (it didn't), we decided to move to the north of the reserve to look for the Hen Harrier which has been coming into roost there.
Immediately on arrival at the North Hide, a female Marsh Harrier flew by and not long after that Mike picked up a ring-tailed Hen Harrier flying at the back. It landed in a tree, giving Mike and me a chance to have a go at some extreme digiscoping, at distance.
After the Harrier flew off to the north, we headed back towards the central track. On the way, near the bungalow in the middle of the reserve, we bumped into a couple and their grandchild. Clearly none birders, they greeted us with "Are you trained, expert bird spotter people?" They then went onto describe a "starling sized bird with a crest feeding on berries."
The description was perfect for Waxwing, all we need to know now was where. We glanced towards the general direction they were talking about and amazingly a pair of Waxwings we sat in the top of one of the tallest trees near the bungalow. Both birds dropped down eventually but despite a lot of searching we couldn't relocate them so didn't get the hoped for screan filling photos.
Eventually we gave up and headed home rather happy with an extremely successful morning's birding"

Gadwalls at speed by Mike Weedon

Patch watching

Production editor Matt Merritt writes:
A hectic weekend left far too little time for birdwatching, but there were a couple of highlights.
I dashed up to Sawley Marina, near Castle Donington, in the hope of seeing the Short-eared Owls that have been hanging around there in recent weeks. This area, between Sawley, Kegworth and the M1, looks like SEO Heaven on the face of it, but none showed. I suspect if I could have stayed until dusk, my luck might have been better, but I was forced to drag myself away.
One of the joys of birding, though, is that you go out looking for one thing, and end up seeing quite another, every bit as exciting. As I looked for the main road, an unfamiliar shape flitted into the top of a tree nearby. A couple of minutes patient scanning with the bins revealed a Little Owl, my first of the year.
I also managed a very quick scoot round one of my three regular sites, Sence Valley Forest Park, near Coalville. One of the Curlews I'd seen earlier in the week was still around, with the other probably on the top pool, which takes far too much walking to. There was a fine male Stonechat, who sat on a fence-post just three or four yards away and spent over five minutes considering me while I cursed the fact that I didn't have any kind of camera with me. And, in one of the little plantations, a mixed flock of Lesser Redpolls, Siskins and Goldfinches were nice additions to the patch list, too. So, what the weekend lacked in quantity of birding, it made up for in quality.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Digiscoping Made Easy DVD

Bird Watching Magazine

We have just made our first DVD – Digiscoping Made Easy – and if we say so ourselves, we are pretty pleased with it. It is a step-by-step guide to taking photos using a compact digital camera through a birding scope. Mike Weedon presents the DVD and wrote the script. For the last few years he has been digiscoping – but he has never used an adapter or any complicated gadgets and his results are very good (so he says). So, for this DVD we look at how to take the best photos without all the fancy (and expensive) gadgets and fuss.
Here are a couple of photographs Mike took while filming the DVD.


If you would like to order your own copy of Digiscoping Made Easy, click on this link and follow the easy-to-follow steps.
Please let us know what you think of it.

Barrow's Goldeneye

Here is a chance to watch the very Barrow's Goldeneye video as plugged in Weedon's World in Bird Watching, March 2007! Admire its speed and grace as it goes with the flow – in this case a torrent whipping through the flooding just outside Callander, Forth. The story of how Mike Weedon and some friends braved hideous weather to twitch this ultra-rare duck and a Ross's Gull can be read this very month in Bird Watching, March 2007. Want to read more, see: Bird Watching Magazine

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Weedon's World, February 2007

Here is an extract from Mike Weedon's monthly column, Weedon's World, from Bird Watching Magazine, February 2007

I am obsessed with 12 10km squares arranged in a cross centred on the Cambridgeshire city of Peterborough. The recording area of the Peterborough Bird Club (the PBC area) is where I do nearly all my birding, keep my most important life list and have religiously carried out a year list since 2002. The area contains enough diversity of habitats and birds to get me out of bed in the morning and to stop me from wandering.

Every year there are a few great birds, and just occasionally there are really great days. One such day was December 23, 2006.

My PBC year list had virtually ground to a halt and I’d only just reached my lowest previous total of 174 species with White-fronted Geese on December 21 in the midst of a pre-Christmas fogathon. The next day I picked up my only Bittern of the year and was starting to be moderately pleased with myself.

Two mornings before Christmas, I had settled for 175, and was just checking up on a few species to see if they were still there with potential to linger for 2007. The local Scaup had gone, but I had just refound a couple of drake Smew, when I got a call from another local year list obsessive, Josh Jones. He had a Long-tailed Duck and it was less than ten minutes from where I was.

Less then ten minutes later I was watching bird number 176 for 2006, but it was time for home. The way back took me nearly past Maxey pits, so I thought I’d have a quick look in. In among the usual hundreds of Golden Plovers and Lapwings were three sleeping Bar-tailed Godwits, very scarce in winter in these parts. I called Josh to let him know, and as I spoke I casually scoped. Just right of the sleepy plovers were some birds busy feeding – Knot, and 12 of them. I’d only ever seen two locally before, so this was starting to look good.

I drove round to a different viewpoint, a bit closer. As I approached, the Knot flew about 15m, and I realised as they landed that there was a Grey Plover with them (177 for my PBC year!). I called the news to local birders, but soon the three godwits departed high. Minutes later, the Knot flew, but soon settled again, this time 26 of them! The Grey Plover started calling and I scanned with bins, only to see two Grey Plovers flying around. I scanned a bit more and saw an Oystercatcher had dropped in (also very scarce here between July and February). Two Curlew flew over calling, but decided the muddy pit was too crowded. This was a serious bit of midwinter wader activity.

Things seemed to be settling down, and I was thinking it was probably best to rejoin my family, when Josh called again to tell me that there was a Common Scoter a few miles south. So, (with permission of course) I took the long way home via Ferry Meadows and duly ticked species 178.

None of the waders and ducks I’d seen were really rare, just rare locally, excitingly displaced from the coast by the cloudy, foggy conditions. Thanks to my generous, kind, loving wife, I had had one of my best local birding days in years.

Two hours later, I was picking my family up from a Nativity play rehearsal when Josh called to say he had been to Maxey and found a Sanderling. They don’t usually come to muddy gravel pits with me, but I think my children and wife secretly enjoyed seeing that small, pale wader: 179 for 2006...