Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Birders are `gripped` when a bird is seen by others but not themselves. This normally refers to a rarity, nationally, or, as in my case locally.

I have been away for a few days, mine and Lisa`s only break this year and during that brief time a bird was found in the PBC recording area that has been a bit of a bogey bird for me locally. A first winter Pied Flycatcher was seen in a garden by a local birder in the east of the area and the news was put out on the local bird site. I was away and the bird was only present for a day and a bit, as I say `GRIPPED`!

Mike Weedon and Brian Stone have been `after` this bird locally since God was a boy and Mike was the only one of us mad local listers in the area on Saturday. He got some stonking views and some rather lovely photo`s of this bird, click here to have a look. I am very pleased for Mike (he says through gritted teeth), but upset for Brian as he has `wanted` this bird for goodness knows how long. There is normally at least one of these birds locally per year, so hopefully the wait will not be too long, there is always next year!

Below is a photo of a young Robin that has been present in my back garden, learning the ropes of how to be a Robin in this big bad world. The resident adult, I assume its parent has now `had enough` of this youngster and is constantly trying to chase it off, but to no avail, the plucky youngster refuses to give up and keeps coming back.

I only post it because I like the picture and it shows me that I may have missed out on the Pied Fly, but I can still see beauty in the `common` birds in our area.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A blackberrying Whitethroat

It is that time of year when the warblers start to bulk up in readiness for their long migration back to Africa. In the Spring and Summer these birds tend to eat insects and beetles, but when the nights start to draw in they begin to feed on berries (they also do this on their wintering grounds prior to migration).

The above photo`s shows a Common Whitethroat doing just that, choosing a ripe blackberry and consuming it with ease. You will see lots of these little birds in fairly large mixed flocks going through hedgerows feasting on ripened berries before they make the long trip to the Sahel in North Africa where they will spend the winter months.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I am a bit of a pedant when it comes to the term "Gull". The common terminology for these (mostly) white birds is Seagull, but let me tell you, there is no such bird as a Seagull, they are GULLS, Black-headed ones, Herring ones even Little ones, but not Sea ones!

I may be a pedant about getting the name right, but when it comes to identification of these beasts I am a beginner. Don`t get me wrong, I can I.D. an adult Herring Gull and even pull out an adult Mediterranean Gull in summer plumage from a flock of Black-headed Gulls, but when it comes to the juvenile, 1st winter, 2nd winter etc plumages I am a complete novice! With this in mind I contacted our local Gull expert Josh Jones the other day with a view to get a few pointers. Josh had found a juvenile and 2nd winter Caspian Gull at the local tip and had kindly said that he would give me a tutorial in identifying the birds. The rain was falling and the sky was grey, not ideal conditions, but we gave it a go.

The 2nd winter bird is in the photo below, can you spot it? (Click on the photo to make it larger)

The photo below shows the bird at a slightly closer range. The bird right in the middle of the shot, looking to the left, looking very pale, that`s the one! This bird, once I got my eye in stuck out like a sore thumb, it was a huge hulk of a beast, with a large straight bill. Josh told me that he thought it was a male.

The photo below shows the juvenile bird. Again, can you pick it out from the other Gulls present?

It is the one directly to the right of the Black Back. Again, a large bird, with a large straight black bill and pale head and again, once I got my eye in, fairly obvious!

The photo below shows the same bird in an aggressive frame of mind attacking a juvenile Herring Gull. The Caspian Gull is the one with very pale underwings, a useful pointer to the I.D.

Josh is amazingly knowledgeable on these birds, he is able to pull out juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls from a group of 20 juvenile Herring Gulls, all looking the same to the untrained eye. He is also extremely patient with a numpty like me, pointing out various key features to identifying these birds. I cannot recommend highly enough a visit to his blog where he explains in more detail the various key features of these birds, click here to have a look.

Thanks to Josh`s help I have a little more knowledge in these magnificent creatures, but they are definitely not Seagulls!


The first Wheatear on Autumn migration appeared at Maxey GP the other day. The bird was only present for the morning of the 19th and has obviously moved on somewhere else to continue its migration to Africa. Hopefully it will survive and return next Spring, perhaps even stopping off at Maxey as it passes through on its way to its breeding grounds!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Juvenile Green Woodpecker

The Green Woodpecker is the largest British Woodpecker, about the size of a Feral Pigeon. The above pictures are of a juvenile bird, the heavily spotted and barred plumage will soon be lost as it moults into its adult plumage of vivid green with a yellow-green rump and red crown. This moult takes place between August and September. There are a fair few of these juveniles around at the moment, none more so than at Maxey GP where I have seen at least 4 individuals, including this one.

Those of us that are of a certain age will remember the television programme `Bagpuss` and perhaps the character of `Old Professor Yaffle, an old wooden book-end in the shape of a woodpecker`. The Green Woodpecker is also known as The Yaffle bird because of its unmistakable call, normally heard in Spring, but is also uttered when taking off in fright, a loud `laughing` noise, not unlike Professor Yaffles laugh.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Another Chat

Well, the same one as my previous post actually, just a closer shot!

Just lately I have had a bit of luck at Maxey GP. I found this Whinchat on Wednesday and it was still present Thursday and Friday, then I found an Avocet, then today there was a Wood Sandpiper in the morning and then 3 Ruff dropped in. Unfortunately these birds were too far away for any kind of photo, although Mike Weedon managed to get a shot of a Wood Sand this afternoon when there were 2 of these birds present.Link

Friday, 12 August 2011


An evening visit to Maxey GP the other day produced this Avocet that had obviously just dropped in for a quick feed and a wash as it was gone the next day. A pair of Avocets have bred at this site before, a couple of years ago and also an attempt was made last year, but this was unsuccessful as the young were predated, but there was no sign this year. This lone bird was obviously just passing through.

The Avocet is a striking bird and once you see one you will never forget its appearance. It is black and white with a long black upcurved bill and long blue-grey legs. It is the logo of the RSPB for an obvious reason. A true success story with now over 1500 pairs breeding in Britain after becoming extinct as a breeding bird in 1840.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


My PBC year list has been pretty stagnant just lately and after missing out on a Purple Heron, Osprey and Curlew a couple of weeks back I began to wonder if I would soon add another bird to the list! An early morning visit to my local patch at Maxey GP answered my question. On a new piece of fencing erected in the Spring was a lovely Whinchat. It kept dropping down to the ground and then returning to the same post or its neighbour, doing what Whinchats do. It was quite distant and jumpy so these shots are just record shots really of only the second known bird in the PBC area this year (the other was in the Spring and I missed out on that one too). This lovely bird brings my PBC year list limping to 161.

The Whinchat is a summer migrant to the U.K. arriving in April and May and is just seen on passage in our area. They breed on moorland edges, amongst bracken, in young forestry plantations with areas of short grass and where there are prominent perches to hunt from. They are also found in other rough grassland areas, including water meadows and upland farms.

They feed mainly on invertebrates, including mayflies, caddisflies, moths, beetles, spiders, small snails but will also eat some plant material, such as blackberries.

The numbers of Whinchat are slowly falling, in line with a lot of our other summer migrants. This could be due to the `tidying` up of the countryside and overgrazing at nesting sites, but also there may be problems at their winter grounds south of the Sahara, especially when a drought occurs.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Feeling a bit Ruff!

My previous post (which I have now removed) showed photographs of a bird that I thought to be that of a Pectoral Sandpiper. It has kindly been brought to my attention by a couple of far better and more experienced birders than myself that they are photographs of a Ruff, or more accurately a juvenile Reeve (the name for a female Ruff)! Thankyou to Mike Weedon and Will Bowell for their kind and constructive help.

This has been an invaluable lesson for myself to not get carried away taking photographs and actually look at the bird properly! Also, it shows how easy it is to be swayed on an i.d. when you have a group of birders all wanting to see a particular bird, seeing something similar and all agreeing that the i.d. is correct. There was one voice amongst the group who bravely said that he thought it could be a Ruff, but was out voted. I will next time listen and then maybe not look like such an idiot on a public forum!

Below are a couple of photographs of a Pectoral Sandpiper that Mike and Chris Orders have kindly let me use to illustrate what a Pec Sand looks like.

Lesson learnt, humility is supposed to be a virtue.

Copyright Mike Weedon
Copyright Chris Orders

Friday, 5 August 2011

Small Copper

All photo`s hand-held Canon Powershot A640

Another butterfly post, but one of a butterfly that up until recently I have been unable to photograph.

This little stunner is the Small Copper, a fairly common and widespread species. They are found in a wide range of habitats, from flowery hillsides to woodland rides and are sometimes seen in gardens. This butterfly thrives in hot, sunny conditions and in good years can have 3 or 4 broods, lasting from late April until November. In cool wet summers (this year being an example so far), the population of this lovely butterfly can crash and take several years to recover.

In East Anglia this butterfly has found it hard to survive, again due to agricultural intensification and there has been a slight decline in numbers. This butterfly has a brilliance that would be greatly missed were it to die out like the only other British butterfly with coppery wings, the Large Copper.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Little Egret

It wasn`t that long ago that the Little Egret was classed as a rarity in Britain, indeed before 1950 there had only been a dozen or so sightings of this bird. Nowadays, it is a fairly common sight and by 2002 the bird had bred in 11 counties in England and Wales. The birds numbers have gradually increased and in 2006 at least 60 colonies had been recorded with c.450 pairs.

Maxey gravel pits is my local patch and this too has its fair share of Little Egrets, although I don`t think they breed here, no signs of this have been seen as yet. There have been 7 of these birds seen regularly, both in the pits complex itself and also on the little river known as the Maxey cut. Hopefully, one day these birds will indeed breed, but until then it is a lovely sight to see these graceful white birds with feet that look as though they have walked in a pot of yellow paint!