Monday, 28 December 2009

Brown Owl

We found this lovely Tawny Owl just outside Southill village. It was extremely cooperative, and presumably just digesting its prey (which you can see surrounding its talons). I think it could be a rat?

I think perhaps a bit more Owling is in the offing over the coming weeks...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Berry gobbler

Lots of snow and these things around at the moment. Redwing, MVCP, 19th Dec 09.

Friday, 11 December 2009

It needs a shave

Just back from 14 days in the Gambia. I spent about five days doing 'serious' birding, and the rest duding around the hotel grounds, spending plenty of time by the swimming pool. This gaudy beast was found just behind our room. Bearded Barbet. The Gambia, December 2009.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ed ticks Caspian shocker!

I thought it might have been a hopeless task this afternoon. I looked at the tip and very few gulls were on it. I then looked at the fields and I could only find a handful of birds. Quest was equally poor, with just a few early-afternoon loafers. Ed's mission to find one of the Caspian Gulls today was looking decidedly dicey!
I met up with him at 2pm and we did the usual circuit - tip, field, pit. It was quiet. We decided to have a look at Broggy and let the gulls assemble prior to roosting. Broggy was full of duck as usual, with up to five Scaup bobbing around in front of the watch point. However, as nice as they are, it wasn't what Ed was after!
We ended up back at the pre-roost pit. A few more birds had drifted in, but nothing that resembled a Caspo. I went through them again, and found this boy paddling in the water - score!
I say 'boy' but its such a demure thing, that I suspect it's probably a female. Que life tick for Ed - Cha-ching!
Looking at photos of the first-winter we had a few weeks ago, it's clear this is a new bird - that makes five individuals in the last three weeks.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Captain Caspian

I spent most of today 'brickpitting'. That is chasing gulls from tip, to field, to pit, and back again. I ended up with two Caspian Gulls - an adult from last week, and this new bird - a 3rd winter.

After complaining about the lack of Caspian's so far this winter, I've now seen four in the last two weeks. November has to be one of the best months to find these chaps in the UK?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Reed Bunt

Reed Bunting, game-strip near Upper Caldecote, 15th Nov. Game-strips are a real boon for finches, buntings, and sparrows during the winter period. They provide a fantastic food supply for wild birds, as well as their more 'cultivated' brethren. Unfortuantely, soon after Christmas, many of them are ploughed in as their usefulness declines as the pheasants and partridges are shot out.

Casper the ghost

It's been fairly slim gull pickings recently in the county. After a juv/first-winter Caspian Gull in the Stewartby roost the other week, things went a bit quiet before an adult Caspian was found in the dying rays of light on Friday night by MJP.

Saturday evenings roost was typically poor, with just a single adult Yellow-leg of note. Today I decided to pop in and see the mid-day roost on one of the more 'exclusive' brick pits.

I struck gull-gold! Well, reletively speaking - I found two adult Caspians in a matter of minutes. Both pretty typical birds, but both flew off seperately towards Stewartby before anyone else could get to see them. Below are a few shots.

This is the second bird I found:

And here's the first bird:

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


This is FAY, a Cormorant from a brood of four ringed in Forvie, North-east Scotland. I found it on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly on 31st October 2007. It's still the most southerly recovery from all the Cormorants ringed on the east coast of Scotland to date.

Coincidentally, I also found another colour-ringed Cormorant from the same area at the weekend. This one was on Brogborough lake in Beds. It was originally ringed in Inverbervie on 25th July earlier this year.

Reporting colour-ringed birds can be very rewarding....if the ringers involved can be bothered to write back! Which isn't always the case, unfortunately.

(edited to keep Errol happy!)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Time for bed...

Just part of the 30,000 strong roost of Starlings in the Beds brickpits tonight. Two Sparrowhawks were also trying their luck low over the reedbeds. Totally spectacular, and something else you don't always have to travel loads of miles to see.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


The birders favourite. Firecrest at Bedfordshires premier site for them, The Lodge. 5th Nov 2009. One of at least two lurking around the gardens in recent days.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Talking of Redwing...

I had a week away in the wilds of Scotland back in July. As it was a holiday with some mates, no hard birding was on the cards - this was a relaxing week away.
Of course, the birds didn't see it that way, and even without trying I found Redwings breeding in the garden! Reading the latest Rare Breeding Birds Panel report (for 2005) they are staggeringly rare birds - just one pair were confirmed breeding in 2005 - which makes the pair I found fairly significant.
I watched them bouncing around the lawn all week. They were picking up small worms to feed their young, which was actually in a leylandi right next to the window of our room. They were also incredibly aggressive towards anyone walking through the garden - they dive-bombed anyone who got too close to the nest, which was also right next to the gate!
The best bit was on the last day of our stay, when on a fairly wet afternoon, I saw a dark, streaky, stubby-tailed juvenile Redwing sitting on the veranda! It was too quick for the camera mind you, but it put a large smile on my face.

Monday, 2 November 2009


A mini-influx of these dudes in the county at the moment. Its gone from none on Saturday, to three on Sunday, and five today! Anyway, lovely ducks, Scaup. This one was at Brogborough Lake, 1st Nov.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Autumn at The Lodge

A view down the drive at The Lodge. 25th October 2009

Friday, 23 October 2009


Snow Bunting, Ben Nevis, July 2009. Several of these boys singing (and eating peoples sarnies) at the summit. There are four races of them around the globe, this is Plectrophenax nivalis insulae which breeds in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and in Scotland.


Rook, A14 service station, May 2009. Wonderful birds, in fact the whole crow family is full of character. These cheeky chaps were stealing cold chips from a waste bin in the car park!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The big kahuna

I arrived just before seven, and as soon as I opened my car door I could hear Redwings and Chaffinches. Hearing Redwings before dawn isn't that unusual, but hearing Chaffinches was! I made my way through the trees out on to the top of the Pinnacle. It was still very gloomy and I could hear the occasional Redwing 'seep' from the surrounding trees - or so I thought at least. I assumed birds had dropped in to the woodland to roost up over night.

Five minutes later and the light was just sufficient to pick up the first passing birds. Small flocks of Redwings were passing over west in groups of around ten. It was obvious that virtually all the birds I'd heard when still dark were passing flocks rather than pausing birds in the trees. These initial birds were all in small groups - up to twenty.

After around ten minutes Mark Gurney turned up, and I'm glad he did - the flocks were coming thicker and faster and building in numbers. A big move was on! After an hour of non-stop counting, and some huge streams of Redwings over head (the largest being c.500 individuals strong) Mark had to leave. I was then on my todd for the next twenty minutes. It was pandemonium! I didn't know which way to look next, and everywhere I did look had a flock of Redwing zipping past! Thank God Col Campbell turned up fifteen minutes later. "Anything happening?" he said - "Yes, look up!!" I shouted at him as another pile of thrushage made its way across the sky.

The pulses weren't really pulses any more, it was more like a torrent, no tsunami, of birds, flapping, gliding, and skidding north-west. This was vismig at its absolute best! My notebook was filled with scribble - numbers everywhere, with "Redwing" scrawled somewhere nearby. Virtually everything else, apart from Redwings, were ignored - I heard a Crossbill, but didn't bother looking for it, and I also heard at least three Bramblings amongst the melee of fizzing Redwings. And a Raven, I saw fly right past the watch point, I almost never even pointed out to Col!

Back to the Redwings. It was rapidly heading towards 9am and time for work. I'd tried to get Matt Burgess to come up, but he was busy. I'd also tried Mark Thomas, but he never answered his phone. Luckily Mark phoned back and I let him know what was going on. He joined us within a few minutes. The passage at this point were about at their strongest, with lines of Redwings snaking across the sky, making counting difficult. Three pairs of eyes were just about right - one for looking south, one for looking north, and the other (me!) to scribble everything down and keep an eye on what's going above us. However, Col and I had to go to work. We passed MST the baton and hoped he could keep up!

When I got in to work, a quick tot up of our numbers revealed a staggering number - 21,551 to be precise! Obviously a group of about 500 went down as '500' so the extra one is a bit silly. Either way, it's still A LOT of Redwings!

Mark by this time had persuaded Matt to join him. They kept the pace going and had the best birds of the morning - Ring Ouzels! They had five birds fly over them during their middle hour of obs. Gutted I missed them, but a superb record, and a first for The Pinnacle. By the time 11am had come around the passage had almost stopped. The guys had counted another 7000+, bringing the total for the day (06:55-11:25) to 28,982.

However, the story doesn't stop there. Johannes Kamp, who lives in Sandy, just below the watch point, also had another load of birds just before dusk. He counted 4006 birds between 17:40 and 18:46 when it got too dark to count further. I wonder how many more we could have added if someone was on the Pinnacle?

So, grand Redwing total for the day - 32,988!


Monday, 12 October 2009

Coming in to roost

Some Gulls flying in to the Broom gull roost. 12th October 2009

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Double-D vismig

I poached Bedfordshire's premier vismig spot today - Five Knolls on
Dunstable Downs. The views you have at the top are fantastic. The vis
is also usually at very close quarters, with many birds fizzing past you
at eye-level.

This morning I was joined by Rob Dazley, and we enjoyed a couple of
hours of fun migration watching. No big numbers, but substantially more
than other sites being watched locally at the same time.

The highlights? A Brambling, five Redpolls, and some reasonable numbers
of Redwings.


Redwing - 255
Meadow Pipit - 14
Pied Wag - 12
Chaffinch - 114
Greenfinch - 14
Linnet - 11
Song Thrush - 8
Goldfinch - 11
Blackbird - 1
Redpoll sp. - 5
Grey Wag - 1
Brambling - 1
Starling - 4
House Martin - 1
Swallow - 3
Skylark - 2

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Zorros Gull

Apparent Azorean Gull, Didcott, Oxfordshire, 10th October 2009. The shade of this gulls mantle was mid-way between a normal Yellow-leg and a British Lesser Black-back. A very interesting bird indeed.

Saturday gull twitch

Apparent Azorean Gull, Didcott, Oxon, 10th October 2009


A bit of vismig before the big gull twitch. At least Chaffinches were
moving a bit better this morning, and a surprise Redpoll came 'chitting'
over. However, it's still fairly pants considering the time of year.

The Pinnacle, 07:00-08:10:

Pied Wag - 19
Yellowhammer - 2
Chaffinch - 139
Starling - 2
Redwing - 58
Linnet -1
Great Spot Woodpecker - 3
Goldfinch - 2
Cormorant - 1
Redpoll sp. - 1
Dunnock - 3
Meadow Pipit - 5
Greenfinch - 5
Skylark - 1
House Martin - 5
Mistle Thrush - 1
Reed Bunting - 2

Friday, 9 October 2009

Loony vismiggin'!

This isn't what you usually expect to see vismigging in the middle of Bedfordshire! This Diver, which I'm pretty sure is a Black-throated, flew over a few minutes before I was about to leave for work.

I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at when I first picked it up as a dot off to the north-east. As it got closer I thought 'grebe?' but after a few seconds more it was quite plainly a diver! It's not often to have to identify divers from underneath, so I couldn't put a name to it initially. It was only after viewing this on a TV at home this evening I could piece together what I saw:
* Smalli-ish Diver, not as bulky as a GND
* Slim neck with obviously sticky-out and bulbus head
* Obvious feet and legs sticking out the back
* Quick-ish flight
* Not startlingly white, like Red-throat

In addition to the Diver I also had three probable Woodlarks fly over, but were just a bit too far away to confidently identify. Anyway, the rest of the session was fairly productive too...

Most movement was north this morning, quite different to the usual south
and south-west. In order of appearance:

Meadow Pipit - 23
Chaffinch - 74
Dunnock - 2
Redwing - 26
Goldfinch - 7
Yellowhammer - 5
Pied Wag - 10
House Martin - 4
Sparrowhawk - 2
Blackbird - 3
Song Thrush - 6
Starling - 2
Linnet - 7
Skylark - 4
Poss Woodlark - 3
Bullfinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 4
Diver sp. - 1

Thursday, 8 October 2009


At last - some Redwings!  Also two Bramblings flew over together, with a trickle of other bits.  My best morning so far on the Pinnacle!

Most movement south or west with odd exceptions.  In order of appearance:

Chaffinch - 76
Meadow Pipit - 7
Pied Wag - 14
Linnet - 3
Redwing - 25
Goldfinch - 16
Greenfinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 4
Song Thrush - 7
Grey Wag - 1
Skylark - 2
House Martin - 2
Brambling - 2
Yellowhammer - 2
Golden Plover - 30
Sparrowhawk - 1

Also c.300 Jackdaws and c.100 Rooks out of the roost on the Lodge.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Fresh in

Migrant Song Thrush, Pegsdon Hills, 4th Oct.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Paxo, 4th Oct '09

(but it really should be Beds' first...can you see a pattern forming here?)

Glossy vid

Glossy Eyepiece, Paxo, 4th Oct '09

(it should be Beds' first though really...)

Paxo stuffing

Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Glossy Ibis ON THE SAME PIT! I hate Paxton Pits sometimes. I had to pop up there today as these two lovelies were virtually sat together, while Beds struggles in with a single Ruff at Broom.
Diddington pit has has more rarities than the whole of Bedfordshire put together this year. Makes me want to vom!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gettin' high on petrel fumes!

I know its a bit small in frame, but they have a delightful jizz about them. Almost Black Tern-like.

Only the twelth record this century for the county, the last one was on Brogborough lake on 29th October 1989. Others were in 1988, '83 (2), '78, '70, and five (!) in 1952. You could say it's been quite a blocker for the new gen of Beds birders.

My shot are poor when you compare then to those of MST's boat shots - check them out here.

Well done to Pete Smith for this magnificent find - it was well worth the 50 year wait, eh, Pete!

Friday, 25 September 2009


Few birders can resist watching a chat for a few minutes. They are always bursting with charisma. This chap was very obliging at Broom today - thanks to Matt for finding it.

Fancy a 'chat?

Whinchat, Broom, 25th September 2008

A bit of viz

I've been doing odd days of vismig on the Pinnacle in recent weeks, but very little has been moving. I tried again today with a bit more success. The highlights were six Crossbills and three Siskins.

Cormorant - 5 > N
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3 > W
Meadow Pipit - 39 > S
Dunnock - 1 > W
Song Thrush - 1 > W
Chaffinch - 15 > W (3 > E)
Greenfinch - 5 > W
Goldfinch - 1 > W
Siskin - 3 > S
Crossbill - 6 > W

Meadow Pipits were obviously moving reasonably well, but were often too high for me to pick up most of the time so had to go down as singles. I'd love to find a good spot to pick up migrating Mipits in the county! Dunstable or Blows Downs could be good I suspect?

Monday, 21 September 2009


Leucistic Black-headed Gull, Broom GP gull roost, 21st September 2009

Friday, 18 September 2009


Adult Med Gull in the Broom GP gull roost, 18th September 2009

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Bright and beautiful

Pegsdon sunrise, 13th September 2009

Friday, 11 September 2009

Pinnacle 'pecker

A dawn start on the Pinnacle again this morning. Migrant birds were thin on the ground, but I had a bit of amusement from a Green Woodpecker digging around in the soft sand. I couldn't quite work out what it was after, but it was certainly doing it with gusto!

I also saw a Grey Heron fly over Sandy and land on a house roof. Not something you see every day so I 'papped' it.

Will upload the video and Heron shot later on.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Golden dawn

Goldfinch, Pegsdon, 5th Sep.

Startled Starling

A strange mix of ugly and beautiful. Adult Starling, Pegsdon, 5th Sep.

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