Thursday, 23 December 2010

67 White Fronted Geese!!!1!11 Had I been looking.

Bird news is almost always a good thing, but as with anything (apart from a Mobius strip...) it's got another side. The "oh-look-how-shit-at-patchwatching-you-missed-62-White-fronted-Geese-that-almost-definitely-flew-right-through-your-patch" side, as I have affectionately come to know it.

Because yes, indeed, yesterday I missed 62 White fronted Geese which flew upriver from the Barnes Wetlands Centre at 2.30. There are 3 main reasons this grates at me and makes me want to eat my own intestines in a slightly odd form of peaceful protest at all the Geese missing me by.

  1. I was on patch at 2.00.
  2. I was at home, 2 minutes sprint away from the river at 2.30. 
  3. Alternatively I have a roof which is a 1 Minute ascent and then typically a 25 minute awkward for the watching neighbours descent.

Unfortunately I don't have a pager nor know enough of the Barnes Crew to have got a heads up on the geese, although the Wetlands and Chiswick Eyot are so close it would have to be near instantaneous for me to stand a chance of getting on them. And these were birds that probably actually existed as well, as opposed to the Barnes triangle of 'Dodos' and 'Hoopoes' in the visitor books.

Anyway it's all irrelevant as I've moved on, went down the river today and found a mother fudgingly awesome bird. A Stock Dove looking very cold on the muddy foreshore. A single Snipe was visible although the tide meant they were probably feeding somewhere not so visible and a group of 5 Gadwall flew past this lone male.

Unintentionally arty shot of a Gadwall

Wannabe artsy shot of three crows.

Two groups totalling 12 Redwing flew East calling and nothing much else was going on. I convinced myself out of going to the Wetlands Centre in the afternoon based on the fact that it was really cold and I'd probably not see yesterday's 62 White fronts so instead I went and did some very last minute Crimbo shopping and a little bit of revision.

Happy days!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The one that really never was.

It turns out (surprise surprise) that my sub adult Gull that I thought may be a Caspo was nothing of the sort. I saw the bird much better a couple of days ago and whilst I can see how I ended up with the impression of a bird that really stuck out it's clearly not a Caspian. And clearly is a proper good example of a Herring Gull. Because I'm a big man who'll admit to his mistakes I've posted some photos to show just how much of a whopper this one was. I swear, it looked nothing like this when I saw it...

Actually if I'm being honest it looked pretty much just like that, albeit with a little less head streaking. I think the first photo shows what might have got me all excited and the rest show why I'm a dunce.

Snow and Birds!

With the recent cold weather the local birding's started to look up. It's interesting to see how weather extremes affect birds and the cold weather's certainly been pushing some interesting birds through, which even with the knowledge these movements are a desperate attempt to stay alive you can't help but be fascinated by it.

A Meadow Pipit on the foreshore by Chiswick Eyot and another 3 that flew over in the past two days are some of my favourite birds with their stuttering flight and olivey tones. They're also one of my favourite things about Wormwood Scrubs. Watching their "this way, that way, no this way" sort of flight above the grasslands their is a sheer delight and proof that beauty in nature can be found no matter where you are.

A snowy dog walk.

Yesterday also saw 5 Skylark go South over Chiswick House Grounds during a walk through the very beautiful snowy park. The pond was nearly totally frozen over and I can see why there have been so many Moorhen on the river of late. Other birds in the park included a couple of Redwing, a Grey heron in a tree and seemingly loads of Woodpigeons. There must easily have been 50 in a semi-associated cluster of small groups that all seemed quite agitated and would take flight at very little.

I discovered the error of my laziness when checking the londonbirders wiki page to find Neil Anderson had reported 3 Snipe on the Eyot as part of a WeBs survey. I usually don't bother to check the length of the Eyot as it means I have to double back on myself and I'm a lazy get. Sure enough though the next day I checked the whole of the island, peering through people's front gardens etc to get a good view and there plonked in front of me were 3 Snipe. One promptly flew right over my head in the general direction of my garden and the other 2 sat there begging to be photographed by someone with a 7D and 500mm lens. Instead they got a good helping of pretend shutter noise from my trusty Panasonic FZ 45. I also saw what I presume was one of the birds fly upriver a little later on.

 A Snowy and Icey Chiswick Eyot.

Two Snipe! Grazie Neil.

A very confiding Grey Wagtail was also strutting up and down a semi submerged log. With their extravagant gait and beauty in a somewhat subdued way Grey Wagtails are a favourite bird of mine. So I took a gratuitous amount of shots of this what I believe may be a 1st Winter.

A Mute Swan flying downriver provided an opportunity for some more flight shot practice and I think a couple of the shots turned out alright.
Through the Mist

And into the blue Sky.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The one that kind of got away

I actually found what I think might possibly be a rare bird on the patch today. What appeared to be a decent looking candidate for a sub-adult Caspian Gull was on the foreshore just past the pier in front of the ship 'Victory'. Aptly named! It was by itself and stood out initially because of it's quite long and straight looking bill and just looked a bit weird. Once I got my bins on it it showed dark eyes, a long parallel-sided pale yellow bill with a black sub-terminal band and some streaking on the neck heading up to the rear of the head. It's legs looked pink (although partially submerged) but didn't give a bubblegum pink or spindly look like they're supposed to. It still had a little brown on the primary coverts but I never saw it in flight so couldn't assess exactly how much.

I legged it home and came back with my camera thinking that a gull that wasn't even stretching would still be there but the gull was nowhere to be seen! I've seen one bird pointed out to me that I was happy was a Caspian Gull before but this gull did seem to stick out quite a bit (although I didn't get great views of it) and from coming home and doing a little bit of research it looks as though it might well have been one.

The ringed Herring Gull HR9T was still present by the Eyot as was a single big-bully Great Black-Backed Gull. A flyover Sparrowhawk being mobbed by 12 Goldfinch was an interesting sight. A Kestrel was also hunting over Duke's Meadows and there seems to have been a noticeable increase in the number of Moorhen on the river over the past couple of weeks, probably as a result of the freeze up on most other water bodies.

A ringed Canada Gull with code UUZ was among other non-ringed compatriots at the Eyot as well. I can't find a ringing scheme with this sort of code on cr-birding so I'm not sure quite where this bird's come from.

Very noisy image of the ringed Canada Gull. 

Not the Gull I wanted to Photograph.

Oh and thanks to 28 MPs of the Yellow Half of the Tory party my future in Education now lies in doubt and the hands of market forces. Not to mention the EMA that I rely upon to purchase books, cover travel costs to sixth-form and to allow me to take advantage of opportunities like volunteering schemes. I've been kettled before and I'll be kettled again until this coalition realises that the British people will not stand for these regressive moves. And because according to the BBC this political movement is one to the sound of dubstep, I'll do my bit. Have some dubstep :)