Thursday, 31 March 2011

I'm lying in wait!

Common Terns (Sacha Barbato)
Not long now before the skies become busy with commuting birds and the bushes swell with refueling migrants.

I've had two pretty poor overcast mornings over the past couple of days. Will it be a case of - 'but on the third day.......?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Extra Extra Extremadura

Some more images from my recent trip to Extremadura. All images copyright of Edo van Uchelen.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Another Wheatear

Won't be winning a photographic competitions with this one!
This morning I hit The Scrubs early, pre dawn with a novice birder en tow. I was asked by a friend to take this fella out to introduce him to the world of birding. To be honest, I didn't fancy it. It was too early in the morning and selfishly, I wanted to be looking for migrants on my own. It was too early to be conversing, scratch that, too early to be teaching someone about birds at 6.30 in the morning.

When I picked up Ed (who lived locally) I was taken by his politeness. When we arrived at The Scrubs I was surprised by his enthusiasm and vigilance. He wasn't a young man and his enthusiasm was what I would have expected from a kid. He was enthralled when I pointed out a closeby female Great Spotted Woodpecker, delighted when he saw displaying Meadow Pipits parachuting from the sky and mesmerised by his first ever Northern Wheatear.

I actually enjoyed taking Ed around. He thanked me prefusely and vowed to become a Scrubber. I'm pretty sure that in a year's time Ed will be a great birder. I'll have to get Ed to start blogging.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The latest Scrubs news

My inagural digiscoping efforts of a glorious male Northern Wheatear at The Scrubs yesterday using an ill-constructed kit.

I will try to improve!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

All Ireland Conference 2011

TUB on a beach in Donegal c1993 (Rene Pop)
Last night I delivered the key note speech at the RSPB Northern Island and Birdwatch Ireland jointly organised annual conference. It was held at a golf hotel on the outskirts of Belfast. I spoke about urban birding to the assembled masses and including some chatter about Tower 42 and of course, The Scrubs.

I had a great night and everyone was so friendly. My audience were especially appreciative when I proclaimed early on that I considered myself an honorary Irishman who should really be called David O'Lindo!

Before catching my flight back home I did a radio interview with BBC Ulster and was also interviewed on camera by the RSPB chatting about urban birding. Back in London I was giving myself brainache trying to work out how to fix together the digiscoping kit loaned to me by Opticron.

If it took me three days to put together a bird feeder then I stand no chance.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Call to arms

Great Tit (Russell F Spencer)
My grand fighting talk/pep talk to myself worked, because yesterday I strolled onto The Scrubs and immediately flushed a migratory Woodcock from the playing fields. It was our first ever March bird. A little later a second winter Mediterranean Gull flew over with a bunch of Black-headed Gulls. Now, we have had a wintering bird on and off, but that one was an adult and by the last time it was seen (last month) was sporting a fine black hood.

Finally, whilst checking the grassland to count the numbers of singing Meadow Pipits an exquisitely beautiful summer plumaged Northern Wheatear landed on a Blackthorn bush. Lovely.

I must go now to prepare my speech for the All Ireland Conference in Belfast on Friday, where I will be chatting about the virtues of urban birding. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Time waits for no one

Wren with nesting material (Russell F Spencer)
Blink and you will miss it. Spring that is. I always find the transition from winter birding to spring migrant watching difficult. Laziness is the name of the game during the dark months of winter. I get up late and infrequently drag myself down to The Scrubs. Then all of a sudden things start to change. Buds appear, the first bumblebees start gingerly fly around inspecting any orifice that they stumble across and of course, with the change in the weather comes the bird song and migrants.

Well, that's the running order on paper. Usually, there are several false dawns when the weather seems nice then the next day you die from hyperthermia. Last week we recorded our first Wheatear and since then nothing, apart from several Chiffchaffs. It's easy to become despondent. You think, oh I'll just stay in bed this morning, especially as there has been no movement for the past few days. Sods law, the morning that you kip in is the morning when a great migrant touches down on your patch.

I'm not going to fall into my usual trap. I'm going to break my balls (as often quoted in Scorsese's Goodfellas) and make sure I cover my patch this spring. I want to be there to welcome that magical bird - whatever it may be.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The wanderer returns

Northern Wheatear (Stephen Daly)
This morning was one of those classic misty occasions when you peer out through the venetians at stupid o'clock and think to yourself, 'there's a Wheatear on my patch'. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it out as I was still tweaking my book and needed the extra hours this morning.

Luckily, one of the Scrubbers made it down to the patch and clocked a fine male in the grassland. I'm out in the morning to see what I can find.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Red Kite delight!

Red Kite (Jon Osborne)
I have become a recluse. There is no other way of describing it. I haven't even been birding since returning from Extremadura. The main reason is that despite finishing my book the most arduous part has just started. The tweaking. And boy, the tweaking is driving me mad.

This afternoon, I took a stroll around the block to clear the cobwebs. Within moments I noticed a group of around 12 Carrion Crows cawing and flying purposefully at rooftop level. At first I thought how unusual it was to have seen a group like that in my neighbourhood. Don't get me wrong, crows are a common sight in my area and there are several breeding pairs dotted around the immediate vicinity. But then it suddenly dawned on me that they were mobbing something. My excitement mounted as a Red Kite suddenly popped over the rooftop with over 20 crows in hot pursuit.

Red Kites are far more regular in London than ever before thanks to the expanding introduced population in Oxfordshire. Even so, it was great to see such an amazing bird of prey so close to my home.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dirty City Blues

Dirty City Blues (Alastair Riley)
Life in the city has been cold and grey until today when the sun peeped out momentarily and it was just cold. It's funny how different you feel when a couple rays bounce of your skin. Recently, I recorded my first non Wood Pigeon on the feeders in my back garden. I use the word 'garden' very loosely as my yard is basically a small concrete patio. A pair of Robins worked in tandem trying to chisel off bits of suet, whilst on the floor below a male Blackbird splished and splashed in the ornate birdbath that someone gave me for Christmas about a hundred years ago.

The Spring migrants will be with us shortly and I can't wait. In fact, I will be lying in wait for them in several locations come April, namely Tower 42, Canary Wharf Estate and of course on my beloved Scrubs.

Perhaps, I might be lucky enough to enjoy a vision similar to the one that my good friend Alastair Riley has painted whilst I patrol the urban wilds of the Canary Wharf Estate. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Visions of Extremadura

TUB seeking sandgrouse (Godfried Schreur)
Iberian Ibex country at Guijo de Santa Barbara
River Tietar, Monfrague National Park
An old boy
Someone's abode in Garganta la Olla
The grounds of Hotel Talayuela - Hoopoe, Rock Bunting & Woodlark