Saturday, 21 December 2013


Strange looking beasts, aren't they!  They have been at Blunham Lake for a couple of years now but can often be hard to pick out of the Wigeon flock.  I think they could be hybrid Wigeon x Gadwall.  Any other opinions on their identification welcome.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Casper the Gypsy

Caspian Gull at Broom GPCaspian Gull at Broom GPCaspian Gull at Broom GP
I like a good Caspian Gull.  This was a nice surprise on Gypsy Lane East (Broom GP) this afternoon.  Although we usually have a good autumn gull roost, Caspo's are still pretty rare beasts.  It's only my second Caspian Gull in Beds this year, and the previous year was a blank!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A nice wedding surprise

This Yellow-browed Warbler topped an excellent weekend spent at a birders wedding in West Yorkshire last weekend.  It was at Denton Hall near Ilkley, and amongst a haul of Pink-footed Geese, Lesser Spot, and Osprey that a few of the guests saw over the weekend.

I wonder how many more have worked their way inland after the huge numbers seen on the coast recently?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


These are the first Little Stints in Beds for a while.  They made a nice lunchtime treat on my usual pop to Broom GP. 12th September 2013.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Spotty little oik

After only three visits I manged to see the Bedford Spotted Crake well.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Lapwing at Broom GP

Lapwing at Broom GP

Lapwing at Broom GP

Lapwing at Broom GP

Lapwing at Broom GP

A few shots of an obliging Lapwing at Broom GP today.  Great birds with one of the best calls around!  They even have eyes in the back of their head...

Digiscoped with a Nikon V1, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, and 20x eyepiece.

Tristis in Cyprus?

The Chiffchaffs in Cyprus had me a little foxed.  When we arrived there were Chiffchaffs everywhere, in fact, the first bird I heard (and indeed woke me up the first morning) was a singing Chiffchaff.  After a few days the mega numbers had petered out and while there were still plenty around, Chiffchaff numbers had dropped significantly.  However this enabled me to start synthesizing what I was hearing.

Many were doing the 'seoo' call, with this call probably being the commonest type I heard.  Occasionally I thought I heard the 'peep' of a tristis amongst the groups of chiffs, but suspected my ears were playing tricks on me and it was a variant on the 'seoo'.

It wasn't until my second week, when the birding had slowed a little when I properly listened to a couple of birds calling in pine trees by Aspro dam.  There were few other birds to distract me this time and I concentrated a little harder.  These birds sounded like tristis!  Or at least they sounded very like the last tristis I heard, back in Bedfordshire the winter before last.

They were actually very difficult view as pines they were in were rather thick, but the views I got of both birds seemed to confirm tristis - creamy brown ground colour, yellow restricted to wings and tail, a good supercillium, pretty dark bare parts - they looked the part.  Unfortunately as I only had my digiscoping kit with me getting any images was next to impossible.

I did however record their calls on my iphone.  The next step is to compare the sonograms to confirmed tristis and see how they stack up.  And get in touch with the Cyprus recorder to see what the score is with tristis on Cyprus.

So, I guess, more of this later...

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Cyprus in March

A few images from two weeks in west Cyprus in March 2013.  All digiscopd with a Nikon V1, Swarovski ATS 80 HD and 20x eyepiece.

Thursday, 2 May 2013


A quick post to say a few words about digiscoping with my iphone 4s.

Suffice to say I've been rather pleased with some of the results from my iphone.  The leap from my old iphone 3G to a 4s is huge with regards the camera.  I've been very pleased with the quality of the camera, and I have to keep reminding myself that it's just a telephone!


The big bonus of using an iphone is the huge array of downloadable photographic apps you can get.  There are many which range from things like Instagram which can change the look of your images at the click of a button, to apps that can automatically take pictures as you spin around to make a fantastic panoramic image.

There is one app which is a must for any budding iphonescoper: Camera+

This is the best camera app currently out there, in my opinion.  You can spot meter, have a separate focus point, and can lock both of these and the white balance if desired.  It also seems to be the fastest at actually taking shots - very important if the bird is performing!  There seems to be a slight delay after around four shots as it buffers, but it's still very quick.

Other apps available:

The Kowa app 'TeleCamera' - almost there, but seems to have been taken over by Camera+.  The only thing this does which Camera+ doesn't is have the ability to zoom in to a spot to check focus by double-tapping the screen.  Unfortunately shot-to-shot time seems to be rather slow, but otherwise this would be another fantastic app to use.

Use with a Swarovski ATS 80 HD:

I can get unvignetted images (without any digital zoom on my iphone) with the fixed 20x and 30x eyepieces, and from around 30x on my 20-60x zoom.  That said, you have to be very close to a bird to use the 20x so I only use this eyepiece in exceptional circumstances.  The 30x is better, but there seems to be a very shallow 'sweet-spot' which the iphone works well in.  Luckily its around the height of the raised eyecup, so I can just about rest my iphone on the lip of the eyecup to get stability.  If you want more magnification then you can use the high end of the 20-60x zoom eyepiece but the quality drops off the higher up the zoom range you go.

Mounting to a scope:

There are currently two bespoke mounts available.  One by Kowa and another by SRB-Gritumn.  Both are machined to a high standard and have mounts for your iphone to slip in to neatly.  The Kowa uses a push-on method to attach to the eyepiece, and you can use the same mount to attach to the Swarovski eyepieces as they appear to be the same width.  The SRB adapter comes with a full 'bucket' style adapter which you can select to suit your own eyepiece when ordering.

Unfortunately I don't have either adapter yet, although have tried the excellent Kowa one and really liked it.  Instead I'm currently hand-holding the iphone at the appropriate distance and taking lots of shots!


*  Pre-open your desired app when you go birding.  That way is much quicker for you to grab a shot when a bird appears.

*  Use the headphones supplied with the iphone as a cable release.  The volume switch activates the shutter!

Cypriot Yellow Wags

Cyprus in March is a great time to watch early season migration.  The Yellow Wagtails were especially impressive with a huge variety on show.  The commonest was Black-headed (feldegg) with a good smattering of Blue-headeds (presumably flava rather than beema), and Grey-headeds (thumbergi).

There were also a bewildering variety of presumed hybrids and integrades.  The more you looked at the wagtails on show the more your head melted with the sheer assortment of shades, colours, and patterns on offer.

Digiscoped with a Nikon V1, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 20x eyepiece, and cobbled-together adapter.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


A selection of recent Redpoll shots from The Lodge.  Quite a mixture!  How many are Mealies?

Monday, 4 February 2013

BirdTrack app

Finally some great news for UK birders with Iphones - there is now a BirdTrack app!

It was released on itunes on Saturday 2nd Feb and finally catches up with everyone with an Android phone who had the app months ago.

So far it looks really easy and quick to add sightings from the field.  I took it for a test-drive round Broom yesterday and adding casual records was a doddle.  I've still got to give the species list function a run through, but that might be more attractive to use if it's as quick as entering casual records.

There are also two extra functions on the app - 'Local Species' and 'Local Hotspots'.  'Local Species' lists sightings that anyone has entered in to BirdTrack and you can their location on a Google map.  Local Hotspots does a similar thing but lists sightings by location first.  These might be the least used function of the app for me, but I guess others will find them interesting and useful.

The app can be found on the Apple store or on Google Play for Android users.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Some Owls

Little Owl at Keepers Warren
Little Owl

Tawny Owl at Keepers Warren
Tawny Owl

I've done a bit of 'Owling'  in the last few weeks.  These are the best of my efforts so far this winter.  Both were taken within 100 meters of each other on the same evening.  They were digiscoped with a Nikon V1, Swarovski ATS 80 HD, and 20-60x eyepiece.  They're not the sharpest shots ever, but were taken without flash on a windy night, so fairly pleasing.

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