Saturday, 31 March 2012

Green Sandpiper

This Green Sandpiper was present the other day on a stretch of water that is known locally as the Maxey cut, a small river close to the reserve of Maxey gravel pits.

The river is extremely low at the moment and the Environment Agency have been removing the larger fish from the river in order to put them in the River Welland which still has fairly healthy water levels. With the drought that most of England is experiencing at the moment I can only see this situation getting worse.

Back to the bird. The Green Sandpiper does not breed in Britain, but is found in the country during migration, with a small population of between 500-1,000 overwintering here. Unusually, for a wader it nests in trees, typically in old Woodpigeon and Thrush nests.

A fairly regular sight in the PBC area, with Maxey being a traditional site for them.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The long and the short of it

A tiny round bird with a long narrow tail, rather short rounded wings and a stubby bill. The Long-tailed Tit is pinkish brown above and pinkish white below, ` a ball of fluff ` and quite possibly one of the U.K.`s most adorable birds. We are lucky in that we have had up to four of these little birds visiting our garden in Peterborough for the past few months and they show no signs of stopping with Spring arriving .

They start to make their nests in late March which are made from moss, lichen and are bound together with cobwebs. They are lined with lots of feathers. The nest is almost ` elastic ` in construction and expands when the young inside grow. Some adults that have failed to rear their young to fledging can help feed a neighbouring family, this is most common amongst the male birds.

A lovely little bird that my wife calls ` Badger birds `.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Pin the tail on the duck

These three Pintail ( 2 male and 1 female ) have been present at Maxey GP for the past couple of weeks and a starting to show signs of courtship behaviour.

The male Pintail is a stunning bird with a chocolate brown head, a finely barred grey body with long cream and black drooping back feathers. The tail is black and white with two greatly elongated black feathers, giving its `pin tail`. The female has a shorter tail and, as with most female ducks, is a mottled brown, although can be told apart by being slighly paler and greyer with a slender grey bill.

They are a rare breeding bird in Britain, with fewer than 40 pairs, although 28,000 individuals spend the winter on our shores.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Great Grey Shrike

Another example of `extreme` digiscoping.

A very distant record shot of my first Great Grey Shrike in the PBC area (and a heavily cropped version from the original) and an extremely good bird for my 2012 PBC year list. This bird was seen and reported yesterday evening close to the village of Thorney , just north of Peterborough and was again present today.

Mike Weedon phoned me early this morning to let me know that the bird was still present and gave me directions and after a bit of fighting with traffic and some searching with Brian Stone I managed some distant, but passable views of this stunning bird. I am hoping to return in order to get some better shots, but I leave you with these pictures as a `taster`. I only hope you can tell what it is!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Common or Garden

The Chaffinch is one of the most widespread and abundant birds in Great Britain, I am sure that most people are familiar with the bird. It was recorded in 93% of the 10 km squares during both recent Birding Atlases and is only scarce in Shetland and the Outer Hebrides. It is, by far the most common bird to visit our garden in Peterborough.

The male ( photos 1+3 ) has a blue/grey head, pink breast and cheeks and a chestnut back, a stunning bird and if scarcer would be one to get any birder `drooling`. The female ( photo 2 ) is a paler, drabber yellowish brown, but both sexes have the same white pattern on the wings.

The above photos were `digiscoped` in our back garden, with the photos of the male showing two different birds.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Black and White


Two birds that are black and white and are more traditionally thought of as coastal birds.

The Oystercatcher is a bird that is found along our coastline during the winter months, but has started to move inland to breed, where it nests on river banks, the shores of lakes and gravel pits. A bird that does not eat or catch oysters, but instead it feeds on mussels and cockles at the coast and worms inland. The population of this bird has been slowly growing during the last 50 years, although in the 1970`s it was `culled` in South Wales to protect the commercial cockle industry (this has now, thankfully stopped) and has a breeding population of around 30-40,000 pairs.

The Cormorant in the photo above looks to be of the european race sinensis which has started to colonise Eastern Britain due to the white patches on the crown and upper neck. Another bird whose fortunes are linked to commercial fishing interests, with calls being made for the bird to be `culled` due to its liking for eating fish. Whilst Cormorants undoubtedly take fish, long-term damage to commercial fish stocks has not been proven and the bird remains protected, although if fisheries can prove damage is being done they can apply for a license to shoot a limited number of these birds. The population is around 12,000 pairs.

Not everything in nature is black and white.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Maxey gravel pits are my local patch, I try to get there as often as I can. Over the past few months though this site has been under water as part of a trial to see if flooding will reduce the invasive willow and so the birds present have been Black-headed Gulls and a few Teal. The pump is now on and a small amount of wader habitat is starting to appear which has brought with it some waders! This Dunlin was one of 6 present the other day (still sporting his winter garb), along with 6 Redshank, 2 Oystercatcher and 3 Common Snipe. As time goes by more invertebrate rich mud will become exposed and hopefully this will entice a few more waders to drop in.

I live in hope.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A jangle of Corn Buntings

What is the group name for Corn Buntings? There is an `Exultation` of Larks, a `Murder` of Crows, a `Charm` of Finches, but I have no idea what the term is for Buntings! I think it should be a `Jangle` of Buntings because of their song.

A `Jangle` of these lovely birds were seen the other day numbering 110, which, given the state of the birds current situation is quite a feat. I have seen these birds before in an area called Newborough Fen near Peterborough, but never in such large numbers, they must have had a good breeding season last year and thrived due to the mild winter we experienced here.

A `Jangle` of Corn Buntings, do you think it will catch on?

Monday, 12 March 2012

Glossy Ibis

Some rubbish, very distant digiscoped shots of two Glossy Ibis that were found on the Nene Washes, RSPB near Peterborough today. This represents the second sighting of this breed of bird in the Peterborough area for me, the first being a single bird that visited Maxey GP a couple of years ago.

The weather was not conducive to photography today, being extremely foggy, hence the grainy shots. These birds were seen feeding until a jet fighter flew extremely low over the area scaring the birds and causing them to fly to an area out of sight. Later reports showed the birds to still be present, so hopefully they will hang around until the sun makes an appearance!

A very welcome addition to my 2012 PBC list.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Having a Paddy in Sussex

A couple of weeks ago me and Chris Orders decided to venture to the southern climes of West Sussex in search of a rare visitor to Britain that had decided to spend the winter in a place called Pagham Harbour. This bird was the Paddyfield Warbler, a small, short-winged, boldy face patterned relative of the more familiar Reed Warbler. This warbler comes from central Asia and should have been spending the winter months in the Indian subcontinent, but instead ended up in the U.K.

This bird had been present for a number of weeks and so we thought that there would only be a few others there, how wrong we were! As you can see from the above photos (supplied by Chris), there were upwards of 70 people present, all vying for a glimpse of this exotic little beauty.

On arrival at the site we were greeted with the news that the bird had been showing rather well, right up to our arrival, but had now disappeared. We started our vigil. Whilst scanning a distant patch of reed I noticed a small bird `flycatching`, settling on top of some barbed wire and then dropping to the floor where it was out of sight. I was sure that this was the bird. I was proved correct when the bird showed again and I managed to get others onto it as it moved slowly closer, always remaining in the reeds, apart from when it was `flycatching`. The bird showed well for 20-25 minutes, giving good scope views and I even managed to get a few digiscoped images. However, on inspection of these images I discovered that I had some stunning shots of a reed bed and a rather blurry picture of what I think is a brown bird with an obvious eye stripe! Gutted! I did, however remember that I am a birder first and a photographer second (some may say third!). We both managed to see this lifer, the majority present `ticked` this bird for the first time in Britain and we left with another tick in our book.

For a stunning photo of this bird click HERE

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

In the Pink

Returning to Eye Green LNR when the sun was out seemed to be a good idea. The Pink-footed Goose was still present amongst the Greylags and the sun coupled with the proximity of the bird lent itself to getting these `better` shots.

Although I leave the judgement to you, dear reader.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Just splashing around

A drake Tufted Duck having a splash about in the waters of Eye Green LNR. Of course, he looks like he is having fun, but he was not just enjoying the early Spring sunshine, he was keeping his feathers in tip top shape in time for the important business of the breeding season. Here he is making sure those feathers are just right-

Maybe he was just having fun, who knows!?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Great Crested Grebe

This bird was almost extinct in the 19th century due to fashion. It was hunted for their feathers, known as `grebe-fur` which was used in the Victorian fashion industry and also, bizarre though it may seem, the whole bird was worn on the hats of the upper classes of society. It is thought that the numbers of this bird plummeted to less than 100 pairs, a mind-boggingly low number considering its fairly common status now. It was the conservation of this bird that started what we now call the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, or the RSPB for short. A few Victorian ladies were appalled at the senseless killing of these birds and so started the Society for the Protection of Birds and employed some rather ingenious ways of bringing the birds` plight to the fashion concious of the day. They would sit in church and note which lady wore these birds (and other breeds, Little Egrets were also popular) in the hats and then send them letters detailing the barbarous way these birds were butchered just to provide a `pretty` ornament of head gear. The letters hit their mark and thus started the recovery of these beautiful birds.