Sunday, 29 January 2012

A stroll along the Folkstone seafront

A winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull - (Sacha Barbato)
Over the weekend, I decided to spend time cogitating in Folkestone, Kent. I've recently decided that it is important to have time away from the daily pressures in order to figure out ideas and generally replenish the creative reservior. The coming week will be a busy one for me as I will be giving four feature length talks including two RSPB groups in Twickenham and Woodbridge in Suffolk, plus I'll be speaking at the Destinations Travel Show in Earls Court and at Slimbridge WWT next Sunday at their Festival of Birds weekend.

I was nice to stroll along the seafront at Sandgate, on the eastern end of Folkstone watching the gulls stream past. They were mostly Herring Gulls, but I counted a fair number of Black-heads plus at least 30 Mediterranean Gulls. Those white-winged wonders have been a particular favourite of mine for years. I just love their graceful look and those glorious white wings.

Indeed, I saw my first ever Med Gull a few miles down the coast at The Patch at Dungeness back in the early '80s'. I remember fretting about whether I would be able to recognise one when I saw it and if I would struggle from deciphering it from the far more common Black-headed Gulls. I need not have worried because when I eventually saw one it seemed so obvious. I must say that I rarely have trouble spotting adult birds these days. I've just lock into them now.

Anyway, mulling ideas are over with now. Time to start the week.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Family Guy

European Goldfinch (Russell F Spencer)
This month has raced by as far as I can see. However, most of my time has been spent behind a computer screen, perhaps peering over the top of the laptop screen to squint at a some Family Guy every now and again.

Today, I put the finishing touches to a tour of Serbia in April that I will be leading. More details regarding that.

Right, back to Family Guy!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Kate Humble & Tub

The lovely Kate with TUB
Spent a lovely afternoon hanging out with Kate Humble on the Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV1. We were there to launch the RSPB's Big Schools Birdwatch and I was specifically there to chat about the equipment that budding birders could use.

I'm quite interested in eyeing up that super expensive Sony recording binoculars.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Campaign trail

East London and beyond (Geoff Nutter)
This morning I spoke at The Outdoor Show at London Excel in the Docklands. Incidently, the 'Excel' bit actually means exhibition centre London - a fact that I never knew. The Outdoor Show was basically a room filled with outdoorsy-type exhibitors stands that were swarming with interested members of the public.

I spoke on stage for nearly an hour about urban birding, following hot on the heals of the venerable Dominic Couzens who spoke about bird behaviour. He delivered a very interesting talk from which I learnt a lot. My only complaint was that the organisors never once came around to say hello. Most unprofessional.

Got two very interesting emails today. Firstly, I have been asked to write a 500 word essay about why society needs to treasure open spaces by 20/20Vision - a nature photography project aiming to communicate the link between habitat restoration and our well being. I am one of five respected commentators being asked to contribute to a book coming out later this year. I'm particularly honoured because I will be in the company of the likes of Simon Barnes. You can find out more about their work at

I was also asked to join in a debate regarding the proposed Thames Estuary Airport in the Thames Estuary, to be held next week in central London. With several politians, conservationists, high calibre business people plus members of the local community, it promises to be an interesting meeting.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Long-tailed green flying rats?

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Yvette Spencer)
I think that it's a well known fact that I am not a great fan of our ever-increasing populations of Rose-ringed Parakeets.

I won't bore you with my reasons now, but tonight I received a tweet from a guy in Cardiff who proudly announced the arrival of the city's first bird.

You wait mate!

Monday, 9 January 2012

What I've been missing

Slaty-legged Crake (photo c/o Phil Round)
Slaty-legged Crake (photo c/0 Phil Round)
Whilst languishing in The Scrubs (my patch and not the prison) sifting through flocks of Black-headed and Common Gulls in the vain hope of finding a wind swept Kittiwake, I received an email from Thailand based birder, Phil Round.

Phil, for those who don't know is a renowned birder, Thailand's top lister and the rediscoverer of enigmatic Gurney's Pitta. Apparently, a Slaty-legged Crake was found residing in a flowerbed Chulalongkorn University in downtown Bangkok. It was particularly exciting for Phil because it was only his second ever Slaty-leg in Thailand!

All hail Urban Birding!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Back home

For those who are interested, below I have listed the species that I saw on my supposed non-birdy holiday to Thailand!

The birds in brackets were only heard and not seen.


Little Cormorant

Striated (Little) Heron

Chinese Pond Heron/Javan Pond Heron

Eastern Cattle Egret

Great Egret

Intermediate Egret

Little Egret

Eastern (Pacific) Reef Egret

Grey Heron

Purple Heron

Cotton Pygmy Goose


Black-eared Kite

Black-shouldered Kite

Brahminy Kite

Greater Spotted Eagle

Pied Harrier

Eastern Marsh Harrier

Common Kestrel


Black-headed Ibis

Black-faced Spoonbill

Asian Openbill

White-breasted Waterhen

Common Moorhen

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Bronze-winged Jacana

Black-winged Stilt


Red-wattled Lapwing

Lesser Sand Plover

Greater Sand Plover

Grey Plover

Pacific Golden Plover

Little Ringed Plover

Kentish Plover

Malaysian Plover

Black-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

Eurasian Curlew



Great Knot

Red-necked Stint

Temminck’s Stint

Long-toed Stint

Curlew Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Broad-billed Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Terek Sandpiper

Spotted Redshank

Marsh Sandpiper


Wood Sandpiper

Common Snipe

Red-necked Phalarope

Little Tern

Common Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Caspian Tern

Greater Crested Tern

Whiskered Tern

Black-headed Gull

Brown-headed Gull

Heuglin’s Gull

Feral Pigeon

Red-collared Dove

Spotted Dove

Zebra Dove

Pink-necked Green Pigeon

Plaintive Cuckoo

Asian Emerald Cuckoo

Asian Koel

Greater Coucal

((Spotted Little Owl))

Himalayan Swiftlet

Germain’s Swiftlet

Asian Palm Swift

House (Little) Swift

White-throated Kingfisher

Black-capped Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher

Collared Kingfisher

Indian Roller

Little Green Bee-eater

Blue-tailed Bee-eater


Oriental Pied Hornbill

Coppersmith Barbet

Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker

((Golden-bellied Gerygone))

Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike

Ashy Minivet

Sand Martin

Dusky Crag Martin

Barn Swallow

Richard’s Pipit

Paddyfield Pipit

(Eastern) Yellow Wagtail

White Wagtail

Black-naped Oriole

Ashy Woodswallow

Pied Fantail

Black Drongo

Ashy Drongo

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Large-billed Crow

Asian Pied Starling

Black-collared Starling

Common Myna

White-vented Myna


Common Iora

Yellow-browed Warbler

Dusky Warbler

Zitting Cisticola

Common Tailorbird

Plain Prinia

Oriental Magpie Robin

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Taiga Flycatcher

Chinese Blue Flycatcher

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Brown Shrike

Olive-backed Sunbird

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

Black-headed Bulbul

Yellow-vented Bulbul

Streak-eared Bulbul

Scaly-breasted Munia

House Sparrow

Plain-backed Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

Baya Weaver