Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fifth Jerk

Rumour has it that there's a fifth Jerk in the pipeline. If so, how about this snappy design for a logo?

High Jynx

Thought I was done with January but a speculative trip round the MPGs this afternoon after work produced the usual suspects i.e. Black Reds, a Song Thrush and the odd Chiffy but then suddenly booted a Wryneck from the base of a tree. This was significant, as I only have 14 records on the island in 6 years of trying and only one of these was in January. And also because it was a Wryneck, of course. Not far away I had a singing Daurian Shrike.

With my luck clearly being in, a low tide on the way home meant the obvious thing to do was to try the Eastern Lagoon for the unlikely combination of Crab-Plover and, er Starling. No luck with either but Common Kingfisher, another potentially tricky one, showed nicely on the edge of the mangroves.


Total so far - 91 (51%)
Last addition – Common Kingfisher (31 January)

Monday, 30 January 2012

Up and running in Abu Dhabi

Well, better late than never. Finally I can respond to Simon and can say that, yes, I have seen some birds. 89 species so far in fact, putting me on 50% of my target of 177. So it seems a very even race at this point. Most of January was spent knocking off most of the expected wintering species, and cleaning up on – or at least trying to –  a few scarcities that I knew had been about in November – December and hoped were still lurking somewhere. For the record, some highlights are summarised below.

After a spectacular start – my very first UAE bird of 2012 was the Oriental Honey-Buzzard that flew straight over the balcony at dawn on my first morning back – I have racked up most the expected wintering herons and waders during a couple of counts; these included Terek Sandpiper falling without difficulty, although Crab-Plover remains at large. Other than that, there is unlikely to be much progress with shorebirds until September arrives. Lesser Crested Tern was an early bonus (no problem in spring and summer mind you) and Pallas’s Gull was predictable but pleasant nonetheless, not least the one that lolloped past the balcony one afternoon. A couple of visits to Emirate’s Palace yielded the Buff-bellied Pipit that appeared in December, now with a friend, and the bird of the year so far, my first AD Blyth’s Pipit that gave very instructive and close views both times.

Corn Bunting, Coot and Greater White-front were also handy additions, all ones I found in late autumn but far from annual on the island. Coot is a mega in fact! Despite pinning them down last month and searching hard this on, there was a less satisfactory result (at least so far) for Masked Shrike, Bluethroat (not overly concerned; have a fair chance of both in due course), European Stonechat (more worrying) and Shelduck (probably no chance now; this is even rarer than Coot here).

Highlight of the month, inevitably, was my first visit of the 2012 campaign to Lulu Island, just 500 yards from the main Corniche but a world apart in terms of birding; it is probably better than everywhere else on the island combined on a good day. Thus in 4 hours I went from 81 species to 89; these were mostly predictable such as Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Tawny Pipit but I also scored five Black-necked Grebes – another local mega I had found here in autumn and pleased to find they had stuck about – and an early Menetries’s Warbler. Year-listing is a funny game and it meant that I was much more thrilled with the lone Yellow-throated Sparrow I found (barely annual on AD any more, and only my second winter record in 6 years) than the dozen Hypocolius at 15m for 10 minutes – exactly where I had left them in early December. I wonder which one Simon would have preferred…

So that’s it so far.
More regular – and less wordy – updates to come. Inshallah.


Total so far - 89 (50%)
Last addition – Yellow-throated Sparrow (29 January[a1] )


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Eat My Dust

On the understanding that this competition is a race to 100, I decided to push the boat out even further this afternoon by tackling the 24 miles (and A134 in the dark - did you get that, Oscar?!) to try and pin down the Lackford Bean Geese. Turns out they're sneaky wee f*ckers, and weren't anywhere to be seen, let alone pinned. Likewise the Bittern (which has far more right to be sneaky than a Bean Goose), and the various Caspian Gulls that proper birders (with 'scopes) regularly extract from the gull roost. I had to settle for uber-tart Herring Gull (90) and Shoveler (91), considerably-less-tarty-in-Breckland-in-winter Great Crested Grebe (92), 3 fine Pintail (93), Yellow-legged Gull (94) - thanks to scoped-up Lee & Jonny (but where were the real gulls, lads?!) and - in the semi-darkness on the way home - several very vocal Grey Partridge (95).


The winter Circle Jerking conundrum: how to get from A to B, stand motionless in sub-zero temperatures at B, then cycle back to A in freezing fog without either overheating on route or getting hypothermia*. I managed to avoid overheating very nicely on my 8 mile return this morning. The hanging around staring at deceptively feather-like golden-orange leaves in the dense undergrowth was so riveting, however, that I forgot I don't possess penguin-style countercurrent exchange in my hands or feet (OK pengiuns don't have hands but you get the point). Not being able to feel my hands or feet on the way back meant that instead of stopping to look for Tree Sparrows or Great Bustards (there'll be one here one day), I had to make a bee-line for home, hot chocolate and hot shower.

Back out into the freezing fog 45 minutes later though, à pied round the Nunnery Lakes, was worth it for two tarts: a high count - for the site - of 6 Pochard (88) and a Skylark (89) somewhere in the gloom. Still no Jack Snipe - one of two big grippers Neil Calbrade has on me at the Lakes this year. The other being Mediterranean Gull, thanks to the adult that chose to fly right over his head yesterday. Med Gulls are so rare that Chris still owes me a pint from his bet that someone would bag Med Gull for the 2011 BTO v RSPB staff challenge... 143 species in 2011, no Med Gull mate. Mine's a Black Sheep Golden Sheep, ta.

*Some helpful advice from Wikipedia: "Appropriate clothing helps to prevent hypothermia". Nice one.

Plastic fantastic

Right then ladies, let's get this out in the open. Here's an extract straight from the BOU list, as at 15 Jan 2012:

Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis AC2E*

I'm not claiming Cat. A for the Nunnery Lakes bird - that would be stretching it - but a quick squint at BB 104 p122-123 gives me enough evidence to bag it on Cat. C, I reckon: "Barnacle Goose was added to Cat. C2 in 2005 based on self-sustaining populations in at least Bedfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk." And a recent WeBS report put the winter maximum of 'naturalised' Barnies at a staggering (depressing?) 1,516 individuals in January 2009.

Now I'm sure there won't be any dissension at Mandarin (in Breck, they're as wild as the day is long... arguably not the best turn of phrase in January but hey-ho), nor today's plastic-fantastic addition: undisclosed golden bird sp. at undisclosed location 4 miles from home (87)!

No more Sniping & more besides.

I had no intentions of stretching my tired muscles today, but an invitation at lunchtime from Gary Elton to head out & see Jack Snipe at Pensthorpe was just too tempting! It turned out to be a great decision, en-route an early returning Marsh Harrier graced the fields at Bintree - so that was numero 82.

I arrived at Pensthorpe & after 20 mins of criss-crossing the wet grassland with GE, I eventually (as per the norm) put Jack Snipe (83) up from under my feet. So i guess that's me domne with Snipe for 2012.

We then did a circuit of the lakes, past all the plastic stuff, which I ignored (please note Nick!!).
Then on to the main scrape (this looks like it might actually give me some wader habitat in the autumn -boys!) & lagoon. A quick scan scored an Oystercatcher (84), another scan found a drake Pintail(85) - nice eh? Finally, we walked to the main lagoon & a Cetti's Warbler (86) called & then chose to provide brief views. Pretty good afternoon, another 20 miles cycled & those buns & thighs are tightening up, nicely! Sorry girls, you'll have to wait till spring for the full lycra effect.

Aching muscles & success with Siskin

Friday 27th - a long ride today with a mate.... in fact mainly a long nice bike ride through my 15KM area & on to Wells for delhi style lunch! But stopped 3x en-route back twice for dips on Short-eared Owl (present a week ago!) nr the Ryburghs then a successful stop for Siskin (81) at Hempton NOA, where incidentally I saw my 4th Woodcock of my NML.

A beautiful day with 48 miles clocked, way beyond anything I have ridden since the summer, so a little achy!

Burst rubber puts dampener on evening assignation

Bugger. An attempt at seeing Mandarin and roosting Hen Harriers was punctured by a front wheel flat at Ogdens - and did I have my repair kit? Nope. Mobile phone? Nope. Six mile walk home with virtually no birds to look at? Yup.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Caspian Woodcock

Back home from work (actually, refereeing one the most obscure of the 19 codified games of football to survive worldwide - see this link), and straight on the bike to take advantage of the noticeably longer evenings. Straight up to the Lapwing Hide on Ibsley Water, and about 2500 gulls to sift through, most of them LBBGs. Two Yellow-legged Gulls were straightforward enough, but I quite rapidly identified a likely candidate for my real target - Caspian Gull. It looked a little anomalous at first when bathing, but it soon flew about a bit and then perched conveniently on an island - it was very nearly an adult, but not quite, so I'm calling it a 4th winter, or 5cy - most notably non-adult feature was a fine, broken subterminal "necklace" in the tail, plus a not-quite-spot-on bill pattern.

Back home, I was taking a phone call in the gloaming, when a Woodcock flew by - nice! Only the second for our garden.

Mystery photo....

Photo taken at 1300 today. Identify the species?

Friday, 27 January 2012

Twitter test

With a bit of luck, my IT genius will mean all our blog posts get fed to Twitter automatically (@skwoolley).

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Nick's got wood!

Nice to see Nick's search for wooden ducks led him to a site containing this delightful passage (ooer) -

My master’s family are Chinese, and they are very queer......Sometimes a pair of us are put in a gay cage and carried to a wedding. 

 My mind continues to boggle.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Punctured Ego

21st Jan

A quick cycle ride to Sparham & 12 Goosander, a Grey Wagtail, plus 3 Snipe had my ego sky high as drew level with the NML hitting 80. However my ego was severely & literally punctured 3x on the route home, in the pissing rain & howling gale!

Time to cycle & Shrike

20th Jan

Okay lets bring you up to speed!

Following my consciousness that a Great Grey Shrike at Fakenhan was within my boundaries it was time to "shrike whilst the iron was hot."
On arrival at Fakenham, cycling all the way into a NW breeze I was a bit pissed off that there was no sign of the Shrike.
A call to Nick established it was still present the previous day(thanks for that xtra bit of gen, Mr Moran!) & a 30 second walk flushed it from the hedge & it sat proudly atop a hawthorn allowing shaky scope views from a wind blown monopod.

Chocolate in Fakenham then on towards Sennowe & via a bit of undercover trespassing added Grey Partridge, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Goldeneye & Barn Owl. NML stands at 76.

Birding Lycra style

Never trust a man emerging from the bushes in lycra, sporting a pair of binoculars! It maybe one of the circle jerks!! Whatever you do, please don't google (just know you will have to now!)

Yet again we find ourselves competing for the number of birds seen aboard a bicycle, some of you may know Simon Woolley & myself spent the year aboard bikes trying to see as many species as possible without the aid of any motorised transport. Simon's booklet is still available see http://geography.wincoll.ac.uk/jjcskw/book.htm & extracts from mine are still available at http://birderonabike.blogspot.com/. 2005 evolved into an epic of birds, pain, sweat & effort.
2012 will be a little kinder with a 15km radius from the house being the boundary limits, I am about to rediscover gravel pit birding. Back to my Nottinghamshire days of staring at gravelly edges praying for a Common Sandpiper! It's a friendly challenge until you invite Simon Woolley - Winchester, Nick Moran - Thetford & Oscar Campbell Abu Dhabi (UAE), 3 highly strung, ultra competitive, hardcore birders anyone knows.

Anyway - "ON YER BIKE"!

Pla(s)ti(c)num duck

Isn't the internet a wonderful resource? Bang 'decoy mandarin duck' into Google Images and kapow! - you get this cracker! Nice one Lee (GRE?!) - though quite how you crowbarred in a reference to Job 12:7 has me as stumped as a Mandarin nest-site.

Oh yeah, all this is a convoluted way of saying that in retaliation to falling behind over the weekend (had to go to Spurn for a meeting on Saturday and was then required to behave like a normal human being on Sunday), I spent 2 hours bike-fixing Sunday eve then 2 hours riding it to list-lengthening heaven pre-work on Monday. Mandarin, Willow Tit and Cetti's Warbler - and 3 ridiculously tarty things I won't mention here for fear of a year's worth of ridicule - now safely OML.

Latest stats (following 2 Wigeon at the Nunnery Lakes this lunchtime):

Chris: 80 [55% of target]
Nick: 86 [56%]
Oscar: 80 [45%]
Simon: 82 [50%]


Broken New Year's Resolution #17: Do not get involved in competitive listing for the second successive year.

After 365 days embroiled in hardcore (non-motorised) listing action - the TEAL Cup / BirdTrack Challenge 2011 - 2012 promised to be a tranquil sea of low-key birding. Until Chris came up with this bright idea, that is. Thanks Chris. Thris.

Anyhows, the White Nuns failed to magic up a Scaup at the Nunnery Lakes in 2011, and being a Breck-mega, this dirty female sparked a bit of excitement on 10 January. Fortunately for me (as Chris was yet to have his 'bright idea' at the time) I cycled down from home to twitch it... having been deep in the forest - motorised - looking for undisclosed raptors at an undisclosed location when the news broke ;)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Golden ducks

A cold ride mostly on bumpy tracks to the extreme south-west corner of my circle (do circles have corners?) produced the goods this morning. The redhead Smew was located with no difficulty in the middle of the southern pit at Longham Lakes, and shortly afterwads, the 1w drake Scaup gave itself up too. Didn't need Raven, Kingfisher, Little Egret or Bullfnch, but saw them anyway. Now on 80, same as Professor Yaffle, but with a lower percentage - given that Hampshire is obviously better for birding than Norfolk. As you long as you don't count the coast.

A mini-twitch in the evening to Blashford produced no sign of the regular Caspian Gull. Bastard.

When is Oscar going to see some birds, then?