Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Red Kite

Sitting outside having a cup of tea our attention was drawn to a kettle of raptors high overhead.  They were of course all Red Kites and eight in total.  This is quite unusual to see so many together just here.  I suspect they were looking for fields being harvested for silage which they hunt with great enthusiasm.

Monday, 26 August 2013

A Couple of Hours at Strumble


We left at 8.30am to get to Strumble Head in the hope of enjoying some seabirds. By the time I was in position Richard Stonier gave me the list for the day so far and I seemed to have missed all the action.  There were plenty of Gannets, Fulmars, Manx Shearwaters and Kittiwakes offshore.  We also noted a few Common Scoters and a first winter Mediterranean Gull.  Three Porpoises put on a bit of a display before a superb pale phase Arctic Skua came by harassing the gulls followed a little later on by a juvenile Pomarine Skua. Then the fog rolled in making visibility nil so we abandoned  sea watching for the day.

Manx Shearwater

We moved on to st.David's Head hoping for a glimpse of a Rose-coloured Starling but that had been seen early in the morning but not again. Still some wonderful sea air and we picked up splendid dressed crab for our tea glad to have enjoyed a good day out.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Democracy! What Democracy?

I find it hard to believe that the self-interested National Farmers' Union have persuaded a court Judge to issue an injunction preventing any protest against the Badger culling about to begin in Gloucestershire and Somerset. This has been done on the basis that farmers who are carrying out the cull feel threatened.  Well so they should for signing up to a totally unscientific operation which has been criticised by some of the highest qualified scientists in the land.

This is entirely a political decision carried out as a sop to this Governments' supporters.  I am all for ridding our cattle of Bovine TB but only by means agreed to make a real difference.  This latest decision is a disgrace and a threat to our liberty.  This country should pride itself in the ability to peacefully protest about anything we wish.

Just a Few Days Left

If you have not had a chance to get my book Birds Coping With An Obsession then you have just six days to get the cheapest deal around. All you have to do is call Grantham Book Services on 01206 255 800 and quote BF2013Obsession and you can get the book for £9.75 which includes postage.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Roost at Pembrey

Pembrey Harbour

Members of Carmathenshire Bird Club assembled at Pembrey Old Harbour at 5.30pm onwards for the high tide roost.  When I arrived there were hordes of Oystercatchers, and already 60 Sandwich Terns and a count had been made of 18 Mediterranean Gulls.  Birds kept arriving and included c20 Turnstone, c30 Dunlin and a lone Whimbrel.

Sandwich Terns

The sharp eyes of Gary Harper picked out a distant Gannet and even better a marauding Arctic Skua chasing terns through the estuary.  Before we left over a hundred Sandwich Terns had gathered with a single Common Tern.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Another BirdFair Flies By

Today I am feeling particularly shattered after a whole weekend at the BirdFair.  The weather was not too unkind apart from Friday morning and once more thousands of birders, conservationists and hopefully other curious people turned up over the three days.  It is always good to see old friends and indeed make new ones.  It is sad to hear of friends no longer with us and particularly sad to discover that Andrew Grieve and Peter Basterfield have suffered with health problems in the last year.

Early morning at the BirdFair

On a personal note it was great to give a talk on my 70 years of birding to a large audience and one which contained many friends.  After that I did the first of three signing sessions for my new book Birds. Coping With An Obsession.  That seemed to go well and many came to buy the book and I was chuffed to sign copies for them. 

Yours truly, friend Alan McBride and fellow blogger Mark Avery - phot by Laura Kammermeir

I have flippantly commented recently that if I do not turn up in future then I may well be dead.  For me it is an unmissable event and I am already looking forward to 2014.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Its BirdFair Time Again

My how time flies!  It is time to head off tomorrow for Rutland Water for the 25th British Birdwatching Fair.  Can it really be over 20 years ago that I first made the pilgrimage?  My how it has grown and now having raised over £2 million towards bird conservation across the World everyone involved can be extremely proud.

The BirdFair in full swing

This years project contues the Flyways theme and deals with the Americas. 

Swainson's Hawk and.......

Upland Sandpiper two of the species that will benefit from this year's project
 Whatever else we shall all enjoy ourselves meeting old friends and new and making a difference for our planet's fabulous birds.  See you there!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Crass Decision by Welsh Assembly

We all know that politicians generally are completely out of touch when it comes to conservation matters.  Too many consider those of us passionate about the environment to be part of a leisure industry competing for attention.  There is no better example of politicians idiocy than their recent decision not to protect the Greenland White-fronted Geese which spend the winter in Wales.  This action was taken after they themselves asked for comments on protection.

Greenland White-fronted Geese

Only 55 Greenland White-fronted Geese wintered in Wales last year which shows a continued decline in their occurrence.  The shooting fraternity do point out that they have voluntarily banned the shooting of this scarce race of this beautiful goose and no legislation is necessary.  Well these birds do move around quite a bit and do not just stay where these wildfowlers hunt.  They are open to shooting elsewhere.  Furthermore these birds are shot for fun.  This is a so-called sport.  Surely the Welsh Assembly should take that view when assessing such a species for protection.  Where are the Natural Resources Wales on this?  What advice did they give the Assembly?  If this decision is not revoked then Wales will shamefully be the only country in the birds range where it is not fully protected.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Lunch Companions

Red Kite

I did not go far today as engrossed in the Test Match.  Having lunch in the garden we were visited by 2 Red Kites which circled constantly low overhead.  A very pleasant experience.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Coming to a Bookshop Near You

After several years of striving and sweating my autobiography should be available next week.  This work describing 70 years of being a birder and conservationist is entitled Birds - Coping With An Obsession and is published by New Holland. 

You should be able to get a copy if you are going to the BirdFair next week.  I will be giving a talk in Lecture Theatre 3 at 4pm on the Friday and autographing copies on the WildSounds Stand immediately afterwards.  There will probably be a signing session on Saturday as well. The cover price is £14.99 but it is cheaper on Amazon and will be at BirdFair too.  If you cannot get to Rutland Water then you can order the book at The Book Services on 01206 255 800 quoting the reference BF2013Obsession.  if you order before August 30th you can get the book for £9.75 including free postage.  What a Bargain!

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Branching Out

White-tailed Bumblebee - I think

I have been fascinated for some time with all the wonderful insects I come across.  Last week I invested in a new Sigma 105mm macro and stabilised lens to concentrate more on getting decent photographs.  So far I have been concentrating on Bumblebees.  There are lots on local lavender bushes and I reckon I might have seen three species so far. I still look up occasionally and today I was rewarded by a superb Hobby chasing our local Swallows.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

This and That

Sitting in the garden having lunch the local Swallows kicked up a stink and I looked up just in time to see a Sparrowhawk soaring over.  At the same time a Treecreeper was calling in the garden.

Sea Holly

After lunch I went down to Pembrey Harbour realising that there was little hope of seeing any terns until the evening.  I did find a nice patch of Sea Holly about to come into bloom and overhead 6 Swifts and a female Peregrine were noted. I also checked out Kidwelly Quay where there were 200 Redshanks and 6 Dunlin and also Ferryisde where I noted a Bar-tailed Godwit and 6 Whimbrel.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Chasing a Yank

About a month ago I was just about to leave for France when mate Wendell Thomas phoned to say there was a Lesser Yellowlegs at the WWT Centre at Penclacwydd.  I had no option but to miss this North American wader but had no idea that it would stay long enough for me to see it on my return.

The Lesser Yellowlegs is the bird preening third from right

I finally got to the site this morning and Wendell assured me it was still about but I had missed another Yank a Long-billed Dowitcher.  Before too long I spotted the bird roosting and preening amongst a flock of Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits.  It was quite a way off and I did try an unsatisfactory digiscoped shot. Other birds were good as well.  Over 600 Black-tailed Godwits gathered to roost with 3 Knot, a Dunlin, a splendid Ruff, Greenshank and a Spoonbill.  Wendell found a Bar-tailed Godwit too but I missed that one.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Morning on a Suffolk Island

After two days visiting my sick brother is slowly improving I was privileged to spend a superb morning on Havergate Island an RSPB Reserve in Suffolk.  My pal David Hosking set up the visit and after we met warden Kieron we set off with enthusiastic RSPB volunteers for the short boat trip.

Havergate Island

As we landed the first bird seen was a Little Ringed Plover which flew over calling.  We took a look on the first lagoon where there were a few summer plumage Dunlin, 2 Turnstones and plenty of Redshanks.  Looking at further lagoons we encountered good numbers of Sandwich Terns and a larger number of Common Terns.  Some of the latter were still feeding quite small chicks.  I was fascinated by the number of canes and tunnels put in place to protect the birds from predation.

Common Terns nesting
Protection measures for nesting terns

Another practical conservation effort noted was the array of artificial Spoonbill nests erected to encourage these birds to nest.  At least nine Spoonbills were standing beneath the nests.

Artificial Spoonbill nests

Other waders noted were 16 Whimbrel, a few Black-tailed Godwits and over 100 Avocets.  On our way back to the reserve centre we were pleased to find a juvenile Black Redstart.

Brown Hare

The last act on the island was to photograph the very approachable Brown Hares now famous from their appearance on BBC Countryfile.  Thanks Kieron it was a great experience and my first visit to Havergate for well over 25 years.