Monday, 30 December 2013

Twilight Bird


Coming back from Carmarthen this evening a Woodcock got up from the side of the wooded lane up to our village.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Glorious Tywi Valley

We woke to a heavy frost but bright sunshine with absolutely no wind at all.  We decided to take a walk in the Tywi Valley starting north of the Cilsarn Bridge and taking the minor road and track towards Ro Fawr although we did not get that far. A Buzzard left a meadow to the left where it had been worming and we concentrated on passerines feeding in the meadows and the woodlands.  Nuthatches were very vocal and we noted a Treecreeper feeding high in an oak.  Large flocks of Jackdaws and Rooks were feeding on pastures and we found a small group of 12 Redwings as well.

Whooper Swans & Greylag Geese together at Cilsarn Bridge

Moving back to Cilsarn Bridge we stopped to look at the large numbers of wildfowl feeding on roadside meadows by the river.  the Whooper Swan flock has dropped to 28 and were feeding amongst 225 Greylag Geese a species which is increasing locally.  There were also 2 Canada Gees and 52 Mute Swans present.  In the river we could only find a Little Grebe, male Goosander and 3 Mallard.  A couple more Buzzards also flew over.

Whooper Swans grazing with Greylag Geese

We took a drive around before heading back home but only added to beautiful Red Kites hunting by the roadside.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Walking off the Turkey

Glorious sunshine and a chance for a walk around our village.  First up was the the noise of Ravens croaking away.  The birds get very active just now and move around in pairs often performing their spectacular aerial displays.  One pair flew over just calling but later we could hear the wonderful bell-like song of another bird high on the hill.


Walking on Nuthatches were being very vocal from an oak tree and over the small valley to the rear of our house a Red Kite quartered the area and a Common Buzzard sat on a dead tree seemingly also enjoying the rarity of sunshine.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Almost A New Bird For The Garden

After filling up the bird feeders and bringing in logs for the wood burner I took a short stroll up the lane beside my house.  In the hedge just 20 yards from my property a splendid male Reed Bunting appeared and flew into a sedgy field.  Now if that birds had gone in the other direction and found my feeders it could have been species number 76 for my garden.

Male Reed Bunting

I must keep my eyes peeled in case it turns up.  A Willow Tit did turn up at the feeders today.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Meeting Old Friends and Heading North

Yesterday saw us heading north to the RSPB reserve at Ynyshir where we were to meet up with friends.  I first met Barbara and John Perry a few years ago at a raptor watch point called Snicker's Gap in Virginia, USA.  They in turn put me in touch with Ron Bennett one of my birding mates in Languedoc, France.  So having met the Perrys in USA and France we took the opportunity to meet up with them in Wales.  So together with their friend Sue Parker from North Wales we set off for a walk around the reserve.  The weather forecast was grim but we were lucky only encountering a little drizzle.

Barnacle Geese

The usual woodland species such as Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches and Nuthatch fed on the feeders at the Visitor Centre and it was not until we reached the shore area that we began to see lots of wildfowl.  Hordes of Mallards with about 50 Teal caught our eye by the first pool and a super male Stonechat cavorted on a nearby fence.  Reaching the estuary were soon watching up to 300 Barnacle Geese feeding alongside smaller numbers of Canada Geese. 


Eventually we arrived at the new hide overlooking wet meadows and lagoons so we could eat our lunch.  The ere large numbers of Mallards again with a few more Teal and a Shoveler and a couple of Wigeon.  A large flock of 350 Lapwings were extremely restless and regularly flew round when a hunting Red Kite got too close.  Peering out into the gloom of the estuary we picked up a Little Egret, about a dozen Shelduck  and a couple of Curlew.  Soon the wind got up and we made our way through the woods back to the Visitor centre seeing only a few Reed Buntings on the way.  At least we were out and with the bonus of meeting friends old and new.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

And Still They Die

My hackles have been raised by the latest Wildlife Crime Report produced by the RSPB.  Apart from the well publicised loss of Hen Harriers nesting on English grouse moors there were 12 incidents of raptor persecution in Wales.  Some were birds found poisoned but the most nauseating was a case of pigeon baits being tethered close to a Peregrine's nest.  The baits had been laced with poison so when the unfortunate pigeons were taken by the Peregrines all perished.

A Peregrine family at a purpose built nest box - a sight that the majority of people are thrilled to see - photo Bill Baston

When are these criminals going to realise that the majority of people want these beautiful raptors to thrive?  When will they stop this criminal behaviour to protect their minority interest.  I would suggest only when the penalties are made more appropriate and these perpetrators face a spell in prison.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Wonderful Memories of Oman

On a day of storms I was glad when the postman brought me my copy of The Oman Bird List Edition 7.  Its formal title should not put anyone off because it is not just a list but more an often updated avifauna of this superb Middle Eastern country.  I was fortunate to visit this country five times about 10 years ago. This book is the work of ace photographer Jens Eriksen and Reginald Victor.  There is a thorough introduction explaining how the book works and including a useful piece on how to submit records.  Throughout the book is lavishly illustrated by the photographs of Jens and Hanne Erikson which alone make the book worth having.  Anyone thinking of visiting Oman (I would urge you to do so) should get a copy as well as another publication by the Eriksons and Dave Seargeant called Birdwatching Guide to Oman - 2nd edition.  You will then be well equipped to see many of the bird species to be found here.  I must go back! To obtain a copy email Jens on

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Red Kites Perk Me Up

I have been having a few problems since my operation last week but have been feeling much better today.  I took a stroll out in wonderful sunshine and was rewarded by 6 Red Kites low overhead in our lane who were later joined by a splendid cronking Raven.

Red Kite

Good to be out again and feeling the healing power of birds.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

What A Shambles!

I had surgery to remove a gall bladder last Monday so I have had plenty of time to reflect on wildlife happenings this week. The Badger Cull situation in the West Country is a shambles.  The Gloucestershire cull has been stopped by having its licence revoked by Natural England because despite an extension not enough animals were killed.  We must assume that the Somerset effort will end up the same way.

Many of us pointed out the The Krebs report warned that culling would not produce a solution to the dreadful spread of Bovine TB but politicians pressed on anxious to give their farmer/landowner supporters a crumb of comfort.  So where does this leave us? Well lots of Badgers killed anyway, a waste of public money and we are no closer to solving the Bovine TB problem.  The pig-headed attitude of DEFRA Minister Owen Paterson and his team some of whom are still claiming the Cull was a success and the blinkered NFU should step back and reflect.  Part of that reflection should include whether they should resign their positions.  Surely they have no credibility left?

Friday, 29 November 2013

What About Those Essex Wolves?

I cannot get my mind off the incident earlier this week when Timber Wolves escaped from Colchester Zoo.  Apart from how on earth did they get out I am concerned with the over reaction to their escape. True some were "darted" and returned to their compound but at least one was shot dead.  Why?  Did the police/zoo owners think there might be real danger to the public or was it just panic?  Britain has become so sanitised over the centuries to real wildlife.  Countries as close as France and Spain live with wild populations of Wolves and although not everyone is happy including livestock farmers the majority of people do not go around scared stiff when in areas where they exist.  When in areas with Wolves it is very difficult to set eyes on one.  I am amazed that when the human race is besotted with domestic dogs they are so rabidly terrified of another dog. 

Timber Wolf photographed in Canada from 20 feet - I was quite safe.

This brings me back to Zoos.  What are they for?  If they are like Regents Park, Marwell and Chester etc and making a real contribution to nature conservation by breeding captive populations of threatened species destined for reintroduction back to the wild then surely that is a proper role.  Too many are just a menagerie for the public to gawp at exotic species in confined cages.  A way to make money but without any contribution to the conservation of the species concerned.  It is not enough to say well we are building up captive populations of threatened wildlife so everybody will be able to see them once extinction has taken place.  Maybe regulators should be stricter when licensing such establishments.  As far as Colchester Zoo is concerned watch out as they have several Tigers.  Heaven forbid if they escaped.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Great Day Out

I rose early at 6am to drive to Haverfordwest. Peter and Rosemary Royle knew I would be at The Pembrokeshire Bird Conference later that morning so kindly invited me to try for the Western Orphean Warbler in their garden.  I arrived just after 8am and was asked to sit on a chair in a bedroom and wait  Lots of birds were coming to apples but not the warbler.  Peter and Rosemary had to go to get the conference ready so left me in charge of their house to lock up and get to Pembrokeshire College at latest 9.45am.

Western Orphean Warbler - Pembrokeshire photo Peter Royle

I enjoyed great views of commoner birds especially Great Spotted Woodpecker and Redwings but still no warbler.  At 9.10am I rose to pack up my camera as i thought I should get going.  A second or two later there it was.  Superb views adequately showing how large this species is compared with other sylvia warblers.  The light was poor so no photos so I locked the door happy.  At that moment I thought I heard a curse.  I had shut the door and flushed the birds momentarily from the garden.  It was then I saw a dozen figures huddled high in a hedge.  Sorry chaps but you were asked to come on Sunday.

The Conference was excellent.  Great talks all round, great food, good companionship made all the better for seeing such a rare bird in the UK.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Quick Look At Cilsarn Bridge

In beautiful sunshine I stopped by Cilsan Bridge for a quick look  My attention was first attracted to a large flock of gulls on the meadows apparently catching worms.  Most were Black-headed or Herring but there were quite a few Commons and at least 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Six Buzzards were also worming and  there were 6 Whooper swans alongside c30 Mute Swans.  Just as I was leaving 20 Lapwings flew in.

Lapwings in flight
Checking the garden today a Marsh Tit showed for the first time for some weeks.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Talking About Brazil

I spent a pleasant evening with friends from the Carmarthenshire Bird Club talking about my visit to the Pantanal, Brazil last year.  The talk contains images and information about the Hyacinth Macaw one of the World's threatened species but recovering because of ecotourism.  Hence the title of the talk Can a Parrot be that Big?.

Hyacinth Macaws

Thanks to all who turned out on a very nasty evening with torrential rain and high winds.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Back From Suffolk

I arrived back home in Wales this afternoon after a super evening yesterday.  I had been asked to talk about the great 20th Century Ornithological Events at The New Cut Theatre in Halesworth at a joint event organised by the Waveney Bird Club and The Suffolk Ornithologists' Group.  We also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the latter.  It was a great night I was able to meet with many friends including many I birded a lot with during my life in Suffolk.  The event was a sell out with 220 seats being sold.

Barn Owl - photo Brian Barker

On the way home with friend Patrick Barker we saw a super Barn Owl sitting on a public footpath sign at Wickham Skieth.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Waveney Bird Club Farm Walk.

This morning a good number of local birders turned up at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe, Suffolk to walk around the farm and learn about the conservation work being done by the Barker family.  In addition a number of bird ringers put up nets and caught over 70 birds to show to the attendees.  Youngsters seemed particularly pleased to see this happening.  Carl Powell was leading the ringing and his expert commentary and involvement with youngsters was most impressive.

Male Bullfinch

The best species caught were a Treecreeper and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  On the walk there were plenty of Yellowhammers and Linnets and for this part of the World good numbers of Bullfinches.  People seemed very impressed with the amount of birds on the farm and know at least here their taxes are being well spent on agri-environmental schemes,

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Morning On A Suffolk Farm

Awoke to a grey and cold day  and went for a walk with good friend David Barker around his splendid Lodge Farm.  Traversing a impressive 8 acre area planted just for the benefit of farmland birds it was no surprise to see good size flocks of Linnets and Yellowhammers.  There were masses of Wood Pigeons too and a handful of Jays squawking their way along an oak hedge.

Yellowhammer - photo Brian Barker

I spent an hour walking two field of grass searching for Grey Partridges.  There had been a covey of 12 the previous day but I failed even with the help of Indy the black Labrador.  I wish we could get members of our current Government to see this farm.  It is highly profitable but still hold high biodiversity thanks to an enlightened family.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Heading East

I am heading East first thing tomorrow morning to my native Suffolk.  On Monday in the New Cut Theatre in   Halesworth I am giving a talk on Great Ornithological Moments in Suffolk in the 20th Century and helping celebrate the 40th birthday of the Suffolk Ornithologists' Group.  The evening is being organised by SOG and the vibrant Waveney Bird Club.

If you are anywhere that part of the World then come along and take part in the fun.  If you have not got my book Birds Coping With An Obsession I will have them on sale and be happy to sign them as well.  The raffle will have lots of fabulous prizes including a pair of Swarovski binoculars and you will also get a piece of birthday cake.  I hope to see many old friends and some new ones too.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Crossley ID Guide - Goshawk versus Sparrowhawk

One of the most difficult identification tasks for a lot of birders is splitting Sparrowhawk and Goshawk.  I have been very fortunate over many years to have regularly seen both and this is certainly true where I now live in Wales.  We have a few pairs of Goshawks in this region as well as Sparrowhawks.

If you do not see Goshawks regularly then the perceived ID problems will be on your mind time and time again.  First of all forget the regularly used warning of “Watch out for big female Sparrowhawks”.  It is true that this can be an ID pitfall but once you realize that a male Goshawk and a female Sparrowhawk are so different then the problem will go away.

Goshawks are powerful birds and every bit of their courageous reputation is true.  A female should pose no problems as they are roughly the size of a Common Buzzard but there the comparison disappears.  I reckon that my first impression of a female Goshawk is that at glance it can resemble a Hen Harrier.  It is slimmer, longer tailed and more stream-lined than a Buzzard. This is particularly true of its flight.  The slow steady wing beats are just nothing like the fluttery fast wing movements of both sexes of Sparrowhawks.

It gets a bit more difficult with male Goshawks.  They can look a bit small but the deep chesty appearance is diagnostic as is the tail shape. Goshawks tend to have a more rounded tail.  If you get a good view the white under tail coverts are also very striking.  Sometimes you can get the impression that the white extends up the sides of the tail and even over the rump.  The latter is an illusion probably caused by the long under tail coverts extending over the tail area in flight.

Sparrowhawks  generally show much blunter wingtips whereas Goshawk wings are sharper at the ends and the head is much more protruding.

What is certain is the the jizz of both species is so different. The smaller Sparrowhawk is slight in stature and fluttery in flight.  The Goshawk is larger and much more powerful looking.  To be confident you need to see a lot of both species.  This may not seem possible but I am convinced that there are more Goshawks out there then we may be led to believe.  You just have to practice.

All of these features are well illustrated in the Crossley ID Guide and where else could you have such an assembly of photographs illustrating the points I have raised.  It is not a question of using the Crossley Guide as a replacement for any other guide but more a case of using it in conjunction with the rest of your library.  As further support for the Crossley Guide method think of this – If looking for a criminal would you rather have a painting or a photograph of the suspect?  Think about it.  Richard Crossley himself has told me that in most bird photographs you have an unfocused background but in his book the background is both in focus and a relevant habitat. For me this new volume will be essential as an additional aid in identifying difficult species.

Having said that I still want to know where the cricket pitch is with the flock of Red-throated Pipits.

To catch up with what others have been saying about the Crossly ID Guide click on

If you want to catch up with a Video Chat next week between Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens the click on

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Penclacwydd Rather Than Shopping

Rather than accompany Beryl around the Llanelli shops I went over to the WWT Wetlands Centre at Penclacwydd.  Checking out the scrapes in super weather I noted 20 Lapwings and then looking on the meadows to the rear 20 Black-tailed Godwits and about 60 Wigeon.

Male Gadwall

Looking from the Peter Scott Hide there were Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal and Gadwall.  the latter were indulging in feeding groups and as always making me stare in wonderment at their subtle plumage.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

November WEBS Count and More


The WEBS Count started at 10am so I set off at 9am.  As I passed Cothybridge I was amazed to see Rooks back on their nests and beginning the pairing up ritual.  Normally I would expect to see this behaviour in late December.

Male Red-breasted Merganser

It was a glorious day with tremendous light.  I arrived at Kidwelly Quay and took up my position.  The tide was rising and not expected to be very high.  I quickly began counting the commoner species and then noticed a superb male Red-breasted Merganser right in front of the Quay.  There were quite a few photographers around so the bird got well documented.  My count today was a bit difficult as 2 Peregrines and a ring-tail Hen Harrier caused the birds to move around in panic quite a bit.  The totals were11 Greenshank, 301 Dunlin, 375 Redshank, 27 Snipe, 70 Lapwing, 900 Golden Plover, 750 Oystercatcher, 1 Spotted Redshank, 70 Curlew, 72 Teal, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, 30 Pintail, 39 Brent Goose, 1 Shelduck, 2 Little Egret and 19 Cormorant.

Red Kite -resting

On the way home I stopped near Dryslwyn to photograph a Red Kite and then moved on to Cilsarn Bridge where I found at least 28 Whooper Swans and a female Goosander in the river. I should also mention I saw a Red Admiral butterfly today in warm sunshine - most unseasonal but very welcome.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Kites Galore

The sky was blue and the sun shining so I took a drive up to the moors above Brechfa Forest to Mynydd Llanllwni.  I first noted 4 Ravens and a Buzzard but the main highlight was up to 10 Red Kites paying a great deal of attention to the improved meadows below the moor.  There were no Golden Plovers to be seen which I thought might be around.

Red Kite

Returning home through the forest I did see Bullfinches on a number of occasions and this species must have done well here this year.  Before reaching home a couple more Red Kites graced the skies and then down came the rain again.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Surprise On My Doorstep

Such a fantastic weather this morning so we set off on a walk from our village of Salem.  At first there were not many birds to see except Robins, Chaffinches and Magpies.  As we headed up higher we did pick up a Buzzard soaring quite close and a flock of about 20 Rooks.  Several groups of Starlings were moving overhead and then as we turned to descend to the village a super Red Kite appeared in front of us. 

Lapland Bunting - photo Eric Hosking

It was as we were moving further down that a bird called and as we approached was flushed for the side of the tarmac.  It flew up calling loudly and then headed off south.  As soon as I heard it I knew it was a Lapland Bunting not a species I would have dreamt of seeing around here.  It shows you that scarce migrants can turn up anywhere.  Just before reaching home a small group of 15 Redwings flew across the road.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Have a Week of Fun with The Crossley ID Guide

From November 4th you can enjoy a week of visiting a number of blogs to see what the authors have been doing with their new Crossley ID Guides.  To discover what's on offer follow this link

I am doing my thing on November 14th when I will use this new and and different way of looking at birds to discuss the subtle differences between Sparrowhawks and Goshawks. Both these species are to be found area our house and I hope to have a day out looking for these elusive but superb birds.  The weather has been so appalling around here for the past week that I am hopeful it will change in the next few days.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Welcome Anti-climax

Cormorant drying its wings at Burry Port.

Well! well! It never happened here.  Despite storm warnings and some heavy rain the high winds failed to materialise around here.  Nevertheless we took a trip down to Pembrey Harbour at lunch time just in case.  Everything was pretty normal with c250 Oystercatchers, 111 Ringed Plovers, 9 Dunlin and 4 Curlews roosting on the beach.  Checking the channel there was just a Great Crested Grebe and then looking towards Burry Port we could pick out 27 Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Coming home we stopped briefly at Cilsarn Bridge where the river was running even higher.  No sign of Otters today but I did count 12 Wigeon.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Battening Down the Hatches

We are being told to take precautions as the worst storm for five years is heading our way overnight.  Winds up to 90 miles per hour and heavy rain will strike early in the morning.  I can recall the 1987 hurricane really well and the destruction in Eastern England. I would urge people with woodlands not to panic if hardwood trees come down.  We found in that great storm that if they can be left then regeneration will take place from the trunks and new trees will soon grow.  In the 1987 storm most of the conifers on the Suffolk coast were down but this was a positive thing for wildlife as the Forestry Commission redesigned the forest incorporating areas for Woodlarks and Nightjars and planted many more hard woods.

Forest damage in Suffolk in 1987

I hope the weather abates so I can get out to the coast and look for displaced seabirds. I am sure many may get blown into the Burry Inlet and who knows what might turn up?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Geese Over

Canada Geese in flight

Standing outside my house at 6.30pm a skein of 22 Canada Geese flew high over my house in a south-west direction.  I have never seen more than a pair in our village before.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Sunny Moment In The Gloom

Thanks to a tip off from pal Julian Friese Beryl and I went immediately down to Cilsan Bridge on the River Tywy which is just 10 minutes from our house.  Within a short wait we were treated to a cacophony of shrill high pitched whistles and then a female Otter appeared coming fast down river.  She was answered equally loudly by a smaller animal (presumably a cub) and they greeted each other in mid stream and then disappeared into the riverside vegetation.

The female Otter who performed so well this afternoon

A few minutes later the female appeared again and swam with great pace in the flooded river under the bridge still calling loudly and made her way into the bank under some willow trees.  Overhead Buzzards, Ravens and a Red Kite hunted.  What a truly magical moment!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

First WEBS Count for 15 years

I began counting birds on estuaries probably 40 years ago and when I moved to Wales I thought it was probably time to retire from standing in all weathers on some bleak point.  When Terry Wells our local BTO representative mentioned he needed somebody to count from Kidwelly Quay I relented and decided to give it a go.  After all the count point is just yards from the car park and the counting area well contained.  So at 8.45am I was in place.  the weather was cloudy and windy at first but the sun did poke through before I finished at 11.15am.

From Kidwelly Quay at low tide - taken this summer

Pintail & Wigeon
The tide was as high as I could remember but began to drop really quickly.  As soon as the first mud was exposed then feeding birds were feverishly active.  As the cycle progressed more waders appeared and particularly wildfowl numbers in creased.   Redshanks and Dunlin were the most numerous but I also found single Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper.  There were 9 Greenshanks, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, 57 Curlew and 280 Oystercatchers.  Wildfowl were represented by 452 Teal, 131 Wigeon, 128 Pintail and a Red-breasted Merganser. 

Juvenile Cormorant feeding close to the Quay

Seven Cormorants, 5 Little Egrets and a Little Grebe also put in an appearance and 2 Ravens flew over croaking away.  Perhaps the only surprise were 3 juvenile Swallows battling south in the strong wind.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

In The Garden At Last

Long-tailed Tit

A respite in the wet weather allowed me to get into the garden and cut the grass.  A Red Kite called as it soared overhead before a flock of tits announce their arrival with Long-tailed Tits calling noisily. It seems the latter have done OK this year and at least 16 were in the flock.  Blue Tits and a Goldcrest made up the rest of the flock and despite my efforts no Yellow-browed Warbler could be found.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Bit of a Cock-up with my Lizard ID

I posted a shot of a lizard in my garden which I labelled Iberian Wall Lizard but my dear friend Barry Stewart suggested I may have got that wrong and it was instead a Large Psammodromus Lizard a species that occurs in Iberia and South-west France.

Large Psammodromus Lizard

Well having investigated myself I have to agree.  It is a species I have never come across before.  Thanks Barry.

Back In Welsh Sunshine

After a couple of days of rain the sun came out in Wales today.  I ventured out and started by calling in at Kidwelly Quay.  I caught up with fellow Carmarthenshire birders Wendell Thomas and Rob Hunt.  Whilst with them we noted 2 Barn Swallows, 8 Greenshanks and 2 Ruff.  There was also about 200 Redshanks, 60 Dunlins and 70 Curlew.

Barn Swallow

We then split and I set off for the WWT centre at Penclacwydd.  I wanted to catch up with Glossy Ibises which had been seen there recently as I had never seen this species in Carmarthenshire. I did not have to wait long before a Glossy Ibis flew in and began feeding.  In a few more minutes a second bird joined the first and then they flew off before a third bird then came in.  There have been up to 5 as once again this species invades the UK.

One of the Penclacwydd Glossy Ibises

Wendell Thomas then joined me again and watched 4 female Pintail amongst the more regular wildfowl.  It really was a wonderfully warm day with a Cetti's warbler singing loudly and there were lots of insects about including Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies and a splendid Comma butterfly.

Comma in the Penclacwydd sunshine

We moved on to the British Steel hide where a large roost of waders had assembled on the rear pool.  There were at least 700 Black-tailed Godwits as well as 210 Knot.  There were also c60 Wigeon.

The Wader Roost

Black-tailed Godwits, Shoveler & Teal

Checking out the estuary side we found 5 Greenshanks, 8 Little Egrets and a Peregrine.  A wonderful day and I look forward to getting out again if we can have more of this fine weather.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Crossley ID Guide to Britain & Ireland

When I was first shown a copy of Richard Crossley's ID Guide to Eastern Birds (that's American birds of course) I was both stunned and speechless.  Richard had certainly thought well outside the box in putting that award winning volume together.  Nevertheless it was different.  For a start the author has used photographs set against a background of the sort of habitat you are likely to see them in and encompassed as many attitudes and poses that he can of any given species.  He has also arranged the species in a different order which is a challenge for many of us who are more traditional.

The Barn Owl plate with Cley windmill in the background

Well now Englishman Richard has brought his successful format to the British Isles.  The book only covers 300 species but concentrates on those you are most likely to see if you go about your birding on this side of the Atlantic.  The plates are generally fantastic and the background really stimulating.  If you look carefully you may be able to identify some of them.  It must be a tricky business taking so many individual images and collating them to make up a meaningful scene.  Having said that the plates have been achieved quite well only one or two images look a bit wooden or maybe out of place.  One or two look a bit like the magnificent displays one used to see in the better natural history museums.  They do the job very well giving the reader an opportunity to look at a species in all its plumage as well as in flight.  One plate does amuse me no end.  Red-throated Pipit is placed against a background of a village cricket match with a plethora of the birds feeding on the edge.  As a keen cricketer until old age took over I would loved to have played on this ground as I have still never seen Red-throated Pipit in the UK.

Long-tailed Tit

The introduction deals with using the book and a section on how to be a better birder including the old fashioned but still essential practise of taking field notes when observing birds.  Richard and his co-author fellow Englishman Dominic Couzens continue throughout the volume to make life as easy as possible to identify the different species of birds. The various sections are very innovative and include Swimming Waterbirds, Flying Waterbirds, Walking Waterbirds, Upland Gamebirds, Raptors, Miscellaneous Larger Landbirds and Songbirds. A weird decision you might think but it works.

  The authors make it quite clear that this book is aimed at beginners.  If not for those just starting out on birding then also for people who struggle with the conventional guides and need more options to make sure they know what they are seeing.  It achieves this but as a seasoned birder of 70 years I can see why I would turn to this volume especially on matters of ageing and sexing species.  I cannot find much to criticise but I was disappointed to discover that quite a few of the distribution maps are inaccurate. For example no Ospreys are shown nesting in Wales, Curlew is not shown to nest in East Anglia and Common Gulls are not shown as nesting in Suffolk and there quite a few more. In addition I found the use of the BTO codes in place of complete names annoying.  I understand the authors reasons for using them but I do not believe they are as widely used amongst birders as they think.

Having said this with the new BTO Atlas just a month away it will not affect the use of this enterprising and barrier breaking book.  If you are just starting out birding you will love it and in my opinion if you have been birding for a while you will still find it very useful.  At £16.95 this is a snip. I am looking forward to using mine in the field.

The Crossley ID Guide Britain & Ireland
Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens
ISBN 978-0-15194-6
304 pages, 310 colour plates and 250 distribution maps

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Freezing Northerly Wind

The temperature dropped 10 degrees today and the wind became very strong and cold.  Not much to report but  group of at least 20 Blackcaps moving through this morning.

Thanks again to Barry Stewart for identifying my giant grasshopper as an Egyptian Locust.