Sunday, 5 June 2011

Volucella pellucens

My Latin GCSE never took me very far so it took a bit of googling to find out that the latin name for what I think is this species of hoverfly comes from the latin pellucides, which is the slightly estranged child of two latin words per lucere, or for the nonces in the audience, me included, this means 'to shine through'.

Most insect identification seems to me an absolute minefield so I'm only really happy with the slightly more obvious ones. This Bee-Fly from earlier on in April may or may not be Bombylius major but at least I've got the right genus! 

Trying to photograph them also gave me a new found respect for those who manage to take decent looking photos of flying Insects. Especially if it's with a Panasonic FZ-45, as much as I love it.

Finally one I can be a little more confident with though, an identifiable shot of Pararge aegeria. AKA Speckled Wood Butterfly.

All taken in Chiswick House Grounds, as getting out birdy-related places has taken a back seat whilst revison for OHSHIT MY PHYSICS EXAM'S TOMORROW.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Kite battles over 'Bush

Despite the slightly misleading title this isn't the West London version of an humanity-questioning but at the same time affirming story of a young boy and another young boy of a war-torn country separated by the imagined boundaries of ethnicity. Nor is it a dubious tale of non-corporeal warfare over sexual exploits, for any of the dirtier minded readers (not that I have any readers, Pah!). Instead this is merely the story of the most interesting birdy-related thing to happen to me in the past exam-filled 2 weeks.

A look out the kitchen window whilst spending the morning at the GF's, most helpfully positioned in a road adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs, revealed a big raptor sharing the totally in-existent thermals (it was both a cold and gloomy today, the type that begin adventure stories with an over-enthusiastic sense of irony) with a crow, exhibiting some text-book mobbing behaviour. Red Kite, Shepherd's bush, lazy Saturday morning. Not bad. Fired off a couple of shots (ooh, get me) and got these shoddy results:

Followed by a celebratory Supreme Plus Falafel Wrap from Mr. Falafel in Shepherd's Bush Market. A one-of-a-kind vidya of how these, the best god-damn falafel this side of anywhere IMHO, are prepared is presented below for the enjoyment of Blog customers.

Monday, 16 May 2011


Reliving my younger days (see two weeks ago) before the pressures of life settled themselves down upon my shoulders I stumbled across these dusty gems in the attic. Up and coming young whippersnapper photographers take note:

Unfortunately all my attempted photos of seabirds like these Manx Shearwaters ended up like this:

Note the not so artful use of the clone tool:

And finally a tune from the heady days of my yout'dom: A family friendly version of OFWG, the sound track to cornwall (in my head).

P.S. I had an absolutely fantabulous days ringing yesterday, but I'm going to save that for a later post.

Friday, 13 May 2011

A garganey, and other short stories.

A nice relaxing trip to Barnes today produced the goods with a stunning male Garganey, which of course decided to stay hidden behind an island (or had somehow flown off on my watch) for the good hour and a half that Shirley the friendly bird-counter was trying to get a look at it. Other good stuff came in the form of 2 Shelduck, 3 Redshank, Blackcap and Chiffchaff and bugger all else. Seeing some Damselflies (Azure blue, if I'm not mistaken) was a pleasant first for the year. I'm on study leave so there'll be either be a rash of posts or I'll be on target to pick up my hoped-for grades. Or neither.

Little stunner

Just the product of a crappy record shot and chance fly-by

Chiffchaff, cute little thang.


A newly fledged Long-Tailed Tit

Azure Blue Damselflies

Yellow Wagtail

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Germany, 14th-19th April 2011

Wolfsburg! The city of VWs and also the place of residence of my girlfriend's very lovely german friend, with whom we went and spent six days in April.

For a first holiday away together I was determined to break in the birding, but with something of a velvet glove approach. A couple of trips to the very lovely surrounding forests in the evening sunshine (or cloudy, overcast-shine. Everything's nice when you're on holiday!) was a more than suitable way of getting myself some decent birds.

The trip started off well with a mahooosive White Stork over the car on the drive from the airport at Hannover, but it was surprisingly the only one seen the whole trip. I was sort of expecting to be tripping over the huge, gorgeous white things, babies in bill.

On arriving at the very very nice house (we were actually staying just outside of Wolfsburg in Flechtorf) it was nice to be greeted by a stunning male Black Redstart in the garden. I don't understand why as Black Reds seem so common throughout suburban areas in Europe they haven't yet realised they can leave East London, Birmingham and other generally rubbley places for a gentler and more prosperous life in the suburbs. The beaugoise black redstart is yet to have reached Britain's shores.

Croissant for Breakfast, Couscous for Lunch, Dinner at the Theatre.

When the female Black Redstart (for there was a pair, and they probably are breeding nearby and I can say that without having SCHEDULE 1 screamed at me) was joined by a Tree Sparrow I nearly actually had a heart attack.

Garden birds in England are shit.

The big forest right behind their house clearly had a population of Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers but I didn't hear any other species. It provided a very pleasant walk with the likes of Hawfinch, Chaffinches, infinite numbers of ChiffChaff and a couple of Willow Warblers, Marsh/Willow Tit (only seen very briefly at a distance), Buzzard and Tits. Fieldfares seem to replace Mistle thrushes as being the big, noisy local thrushes and raptors included a flyover Marsh harrier (again from the Garden!) and a couple of Red Kites.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Look! I tooked a good photo!

This photo makes me feel happy and think that perhaps my photography skills have improved a little from never being able to take a photo without making the horizon look like a mountainside. Certainly it's a bit noisy and you could argue that the background's a little too distracting but I really quite like this photo. Decided against noise reduction or sharpening or any of that malarkey.

It was a very photogenic Dunlin I saw by Polzeath in Cornwall last weekend, which I clambered down onto the rocks and braced the terrors of being drowned by the incoming high tide (well that's what it felt like as a city-boy) to get some snappy snaps of. However it's photos like these that I just don't have a clue how to crop it to make it feel more natural, that make me realise I'm still far from a natural born photographer.

Once my exams have quietened down a little I'll be able to post something!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

High stuff

It seems only appropriate that pretty much all of the birds I've seen today (4/20 if you're an American) were ridiculously high. Having only just returned from a week on holiday in Germany (more of that later) I spent the day in the back garden trying to get on with some revision/napping/skywatching. Turned out pretty well with a Swift, 2 Common Buzzards, waking up from a snooze to a Kestrel hunting over nearby gardens briefly, a Sparrowhawk, and a Falcon Sp.

The first good bird of the day came as I was tucking into my delicious salad and ketchup-based lunch, picked up as an unusual speck in the sky for not being in the shape of a novelty balloon.


Queue salad splutterings.  


Above this Common Buzzard there was also a single Falcon Sp. so ridiculously high that it was only visible as a speck with binoculars. A Buzzard accompanied by a Peregrine an hour later at Wormwood Scrubs may well explain this mystery speck.

After an attempt at a Chemistry past paper that very quickly became a much more successful attempt at a siesta I woke up to the silhouette of a Kestrel over nearby gardens and then a distant Sparrowhawk heading South. But the real highlight for me came late in the afternoon with my first Swift of the year flicking it's way East at some height, the earliest I've ever seen in London and a reminder of what absolutely gorgeous birds they are. Roll on Summer.

I did say it was distant.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Terrapins and Tortoiseshells

These two shots taken on Friday of a pollen-hungry Blue tit on Turnham Green turned out surprisingly well considering how overcast it was, I think I'm beginning to understand what sort of exposures to be using.

I'd spent the earlier part of the day at a UCAS conference at Olympia (21 Prospectuses... My bag was a little heavy) and then meeting somebody who works doing Science and Natural History Publishing at HarperCollins. A job I would quite literally die for. It was a really fascinating experience and it reinforced the idea that I really don't think I could see myself doing practical conservation work as a job, I'm just not built for that kind of thing. Leave it to those who can actually do (among whom I most certainly am not). Imagining me trying to do real-life practical conservation work like wading through reedbeds in the name of habitat management habitat management is like imagining severe dyspraxics trying to play darts...

Tasty, tasty pollen.

I think the Bokeh works out quite well in this one, although the foreground might be a bit too distracting for my liking,

Shit. I'm almost turning into a photographer. At least it's not rare birds I'm trying to photograph and flush...

Today being Mother's day not much birding was got up to and instead the morning saw me and my sister preparing an absolute scorcher of a breakfast involving a couple of the few sins of fattiness possible within our vegetarianism: Sour Cream, Guacamole, Fried Eggs and Cheese. A walk in the afternoon with the dog to Chiswick House down the river produced a Holly Blue butterfly which I gather is quite early and a Small Tortoiseshell. Bird-wise there wasn't too much going on but a single Swallow flew through Chiswick House Grounds going NW.

Unfortunately these buggers were also out, sunning themselves and flaunting their egg and nymph-crunching jaws. Not that I've ever actually see them do anything quite so destructive, but that's what I'm led to believe they're capable of doing. "Go back home" the xenophobe and environmentalist in me wants to cry, but still the wildlife enthusiast in me thinks you've got to have some respect for creatures that have managed to make the most of being traded as teenage-mutant craze toys, flushed down toilets and released into stagnant pools of water. They certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.

This bad boy's got gang tattoos all over him.

Spot the herp-world's Tony Soprano.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

31st March, a glorious day on patch.

Common Kestrel hunting over Duke's Meadows, you absolute beauty.

Walked down the river in some of the winter dream type early evening sunshine to Duke's Meadows and then Chiswick House. Three Great Black-backed gulls gave a good show, one of the two enormous adults helping one of the 4 Lesser Black-backs present mob a Heron heading upriver.

Something out of a horror movie. They will rip your eyes out and then slowly devour your soul.

As well as the Grey Heron being mobbed upriver there was one more wisely sticking put on the Eyot itself along with a Great Spotted Woodpecker and not much else. Haven't heard any Reed Buntings here for a while so I wonder if there are any around?

Gunning through WNW over Duke's meadows 2 Sand Martins were a little too fast for my lens and were a pleasant reminder of spring along with the 2 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap in full song. The Kestrel hunting overhead also gave a nice opportunity for photography, with the shot above turning out by far the best of the bunch. Still very new to photography I'm finding it amazing how with similar settings dialled in how different the background can make the subject bird look.

 Why does it always rain on me...

Is it because I lied when I was 17?

Two Stock Doves seem to have taken a liking to foraging on the foreshore and are pretty regular on the stretch between Chiswick Pier and Duke's Meadows now. Chiswick House grounds yielded loads (7) of Goldcrests with 5 singers and 2 Coal Tits along with 2 very noisily drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a yaffling Green Woodpecker. All the 'usuals' were present and accounted for with 2 Song Thrushes singing and a lone Mistle Thrush trying it's hardest to look like an enormous Wheatear on the ground.

On the way back down the river were these gorgeous little Egyptian Goose goslings. Sadly anybody playing spot the difference with them from yesterday would have noticed that five have become four, and with the male only occasionally to be seen anywhere near them (Broken Britain etc...) I wouldn't be surprised if four become three. Let's hope not for the moment though.

Sexy Chicks.