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Sunday, 20 August 2017

Its the early bird..

...that coincides with an overnight fall of migrants.  It was one of those days that 'felt-right' and even though nothing of spectacular note was found I spent  a very worthwhile couple of hours hedge-bashing this morning. The first evidence of a fall was within the first few yards of the set-aside, where one small bush contained a Chiffchaff and three Goldcrests - always a good sign.
Goldcrest - Photo: Keith Whitehouse

I want to make it quite clear that I am not at all anti-Semitic, but a word of warning to you - I didn't half have a problem with the dew this morning.

Going over early with soft summer shoes on is not recommended at the moment. By the time I got to the tin bridge my socks and shoes were already wetter than if I had gone swimming in them. Not much fun doing a circuit in soggy feet!

The mineral line was alive with birds but most were flying ahead of me. Aside from the copious number of Goldfinch there was a surprising number of Bullfinch with Common Whitethroat still the most prolific warbler on this area. I naturally spent quite a bit of time working the bushes around the pit mound but still the only entertainment was a family group of common Whitethroat and an immature Blackcap.
Juvenile Chiffchaff - Photo Keith Whitehouse
The best site today was the buffer zone and I stood for about twenty minutes just watching a continuous parade of birds fly past me. It was quite a bohemian selection with a mixture of Long Tailed, Blue and Great Tit accompanying dozens of Phyloscopus warblers. The majority were Chiffchaff but there were several juvenile Willow Warblers including one having a go at singing in preparation for the next breeding season. However, by the time I moved away at about 09.20 they had all vanished, presumably taking advantage of the current high pressure front to continue their southward migration?

While I was watching these birds I was joined by Dave Plant and together we shared the star bird of the day for me, a late Common Swift which dropped in to feed over the Mere, extending my latest date this year by sixteen days. In reciprocation for the Swift, Dave picked up an over-flying Cormorant to add to the day list.

We are starting to notice an escalation of migration so worth getting over at the moment although the next few days of high pressure won't do us any favours.

Have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Marsh loses a 'Tick'

Celebrating its promotion perhaps - a Common Redpoll
It may not be scheduled to happen until January but one of the most important information sites for birdwatchers has already adopted the new version of the British List that brings the United Kingdom into line with some of its European partners. This means that Lesser Redpoll (the Redpoll that occurs most frequently on the Marsh and Mere - and in Britain as a whole) has now been relegated to sub-species status with the scarce and occasional Common (Mealy) Redpoll becoming the nominate species.

The changes don't seem to affect my list particularly as the removal of Lesser Redpoll is balanced by the acceptance of Taiga and Tundra Bean Geese as separate species but as neither of those has ever been recorded on our sites it does mean that the site list drops to (by my calculation) 191 recorded species.

For other list keeping anoraks like me, it is quite frustrating that the order of species has also changed once again with Geese now taking precedence over Swans at the top of the list. 'Gordon Bennet'! I wish they would make their minds up once and for all. It is a pain in the fundament having to revise species lists every six months.

One thing that caught my attention on the new list, Red Fox Sparrow? When did one of those turn up in Britain then? It passed under my radar - Chaz

Friday, 18 August 2017

More of the same I'm afraid

Well, it was more or less a nice afternoon for it! Shame there was nowt to see. A mooch around the Pit Mound revealed a fair few Chiffchaff and a couple of Greenfinch, no returning duck on the Marsh and the highlight was probably Ian Phillips's female Kestrel hunting far and wide (but unfortunately not being harassed by a Hobby today - perhaps she knows something I don't)?
Kestrel - a bird that rarely gets star-status on the blog!
A couple of showers went through and on both occasions pushed down a southerly movement of hirundine, almost all House Martins with just a couple of Swallow thrown in for good measure.

Ah well, roll-on Autumn!

Have a nice weekend all - Chaz

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Still quiet as summer draws to an end.

It was really good to hear from one of the old Marsh regulars today as Ian Phillips put in a visit. Sadly it was not to provide any significant stuff although he did manage to connect with a species that is eluding me this year, Hobby. He also had a fly-over by a Raven, a species that seems to be less regular of the site this year after a number of years where records were increasing.


I can't remember a time when the bird life over there was less inspiring! We seem to be in the doldrums, somewhere between Summer and Autumn although passage seems to be going on apace elsewhere. We are starting to get a few more Swallow going through and in the last few days I have noted a definite fall of Goldcrests around the village. There has also been an apparent increase in calling Blackcap locally so there is some movement going through. A couple of nights ago I was in bed and was pleased to hear a regularly calling Little Owl. The old faithful from Grange Farm has not been seen this year as far as I can tell so its good to know that there are still one or two about.

As for me, all being well I will put in a dutiful visit before the weekend although to be honest I am really waiting for the kids to go back to School before really increasing the frequency of my visits. I suppose that this will have to coincide with my regular early Autumn womble to collect the various discarded items that will inevitably have been dropped all around the place during the six week break.

Anyway, Big thank you to Ian for his visit and report. Hopefully we will have the first returning wildfowl in the next few days. Usually lead by Teal but early September often produces a good number of Shoveler and Gadwall too. I will keep you posted - Chaz

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Cant get enough exotic avifauna

Another trip to Park Lime Pits today to see the Rose-Ringed (Ring-necked) Parakeets again. Three birds today , two seen and another one heard. Good to know they are still about and apparently doing well - yes?

"Wot You Looking at?" - Photo Susan Lord
These birds are causing some controversy nationally as there is no doubt that in places they are taking over nest sites suitable for other species such as Woodpeckers and Owls but personally I really can't see the conflict as anything of serious concern. Can any of you ever remember coming across this species in rural areas? Am I wrong or are the Parakeets exclusively favouring urban areas where there are plenty of bird feeders and ornamental trees to take advantage of?

Two of todays birds - Photo Susan Lord
If I am right, that leaves an awful lot of rural England in which the other species can thrive while these exotic colonists add more than a bit of colour to our Urban Avifauna?

What do you think? I ask because I suspect that inevitably battle-lines will be drawn and we will be having to decide if we support or oppose a cull on this species. We have already seen the effective genocide of the U.K. population of Ruddy Duck so the same approach to the control of feral parakeets may not be out of the question and you will then need to decide which side of the debate you support.

Just an opinion but perhaps a valid one? Until then, I suggest you go and enjoy these lovely creatures while you can. - Chaz

Lots of Birds and flutters

A lovely morning and Mrs Chaz, Susan and I did a half circuit to see what was happening today.

Lots of action although nowt to shout about from the unusual point of view, Star bird was undoubtedly a brief showing by a juvenile Lesser Whitethroat that Susan found. Most ubiquitous  bird was still Common Whitethroat, even outnumbering Chiffchaff and Blackcap, the two species that normally take the award for commonest warbler locally.

Lots of Shoreline around the Mere but despite this no waders, although at around nine o'clock I was in the garden and was convinced I heard a flight call from an over-flying Curlew, which, had I been able to confirm it would have not only been the star bird for the day but also one of the best local finds for me this year.

Butterflies today included; Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Common Blue, Peacock and unusually a male Holly Blue (scarce locally). Dragonflies included Brown Hawker and Black-tailed Skimmer with a few Common Blue Damselflies thrown in for good measure.

The soundtrack to the day was provided courtesy of Common Green and Meadow grasshoppers that seemed to be taking advantage of the warmth and sunlight to give us a song.

A lovely morning walk - now Sunday Dinner! Purfec! 

Enjoy your day and have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 12 August 2017

My opinion has been requested, so here it is



A non-birding topic for you to ignore if you want to.

I wasn’t going to say anything…but. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am a lifelong fan of Doctor Who – and I mean LIFELONG! I am a member of that disappearing generation who remember where they were the night Kennedy was assassinated and I also remember watching the first episode of Doctor Who the following day (and again the following week).

I thought that my silence on the selection of a woman to be the Doctor would speak volumes but several people have texted or emailed me and asked what I thought about it so, with calmness and after a cooling off period from the announcement I will say that in my opinion it is an indefensible and total debacle and I will no longer be watching the programme when it comes back next year (in fact I as things stand I am not going to bother watching the Christmas Special this year). 

Although you can say that it is just a television programme, it is one that I have been inordinately fond of and which has been a familiar theme throughout my life and I have seldom experienced such a strong feeling of betrayal as I felt over this announcement. Frankly I would rather they had finished the series rather than effectively piss over 53 years of its history in such a manner.

I feel really sorry for Peter Capaldi, I loved the guy from day-one but he never really had a chance with the role as the show runner (Steven Moffatt) had run out of new ideas several seasons before and for some weird reason, initially insisted on taking the focus off the main character and putting it onto a supporting character (who also outstayed her welcome by at least two series). In echoes of the Sylvester McCoy era, Capaldi was just making the character his own in this last series and could have gone on to be spectacular, but now it will never be. I have no personal dislike for the actress involved although she annoyed me the other day by saying that she hoped that fans would not feel threatened. Threatened? To the fans she is talking to, her feelings and opinions are probably perceived as nothing more than an unnecessary irrelevance in regard to this situation – this is just another acting job as far as she is concerned. I actually admire her courage for taking on the role; I just hope she appreciated how controversial it would be.

In my opinion this is just yet another politically correct innovation, put in to place in the hope that she will increase falling viewer numbers perhaps by appealing to the attention of teenage boys or by being a positive, heroic role model for gay women to admire (apparently two of the key demographics when deciding what should be on British television these days – I refer you to the awful Doctor who spin-offs ‘Torchwood’ and the more recent horrendous effort ‘Class’)

The new runner Chris Chibnal can’t lose. A place is established  in history for the maverick show-runner who decided that his views should take precedence over 53 years of loyal fan following (I will say very little about any ‘cronyism’ around the selection of the actress  concerned – watch Chibnal’s Broadchurch, and  make your own mind up).

As for me, am I a representative of the older generation opposed to change – yes if its change for change sake?

I am not closed minded, I had accepted that the character could (in principle), change gender – skin-colour etc. – in fact anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that as a white Anglo-Saxon (lapsed) protestant, I have been espousing the merits of Black actor Danny John Joules as my choice to play the character since even before Peter Capaldi’s tenure. The point is just because a woman is able to do something, doesn’t mean that she should. I don’t think that I am closed minded, just angry at the idiocy behind a really bad decision and suspicious that it is could be just a covert plan to let the show scuttle itself (not paranoia - they did a  similar thing in the eighties)

No – that is as much as I have to say, it was a programme that gave me much happiness and entertainment for many years and was one last tenuous link to my childhood that is no longer there.

I’m just seriously sick to the teeth of the increasing power of the P.C. liberal left in influencing everyone’s life these days, regardless of if it is a welcome interference or not ! I don’t think my feelings are unique? If we had a referendum on whether political correctness should be made illegal, I suspect that the outcome would cause as much surprise as Brexit! - Chaz