Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bird ID Classes

So I've been having a think on ways of earning some extra cash while I'm at Uni, and I thought what better way to do it than doing something I already do! It seems most time I go down Upton Warren in the week I end up in the hide telling people the difference between a Common/Green Sandpiper or a Tufted Duck/Pochard to people who are just starting out new to birdwatching. Now most birders I know find this annoying, but I find it quite rewarding, and most times I get a comment on how clever I am for my age! So this got me thinking, why don't I run a Beginner Bird ID Guided Walks! Something along the lines of meeting a group at a local Nature Reserve and walking round with them and helping them with their bird IDs all for a small fee that would help with my Uni fees.

So the whole point of this post isn't so you can all rob my idea! But so that I can get some feedback on what people think to me possibly doing this. At the moment I will probably do them in York when at Uni and around Birmingham when at home, I know most people who read this blog are already experienced enough with bird identification to not need to be interested in something like this but if anyone has any experience of doing something like this or any useful information/websites they could point me towards that would be great.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


8th September 7 Sparrowhawks arrive on Fair Isle which is a new day record count! So naturally staying at a bird observatory we set out to try to catch some to ring them. Sparrowhawks on Fair Isle apparently always roost in tree cover, and seen as there is very little of it on the island and the two main groups both and heligoland traps at the end of them these would prove ideal to try to trap some of the sprawks in. On the 7th me and Jack had been on census all afternoon and we had asked to have our evening meal later so that we could fit in more birding, this meant we were heading back to the obs 2 hours later and by this time it was starting to get a lot darker and this also therefore meant that the Sprawks would be starting to roost. So we decided to push the plantation to see what was in there, creeping up along the side so that the birds don't see us till the last second and hopefully fly into the heligoland, then we jump up but all the birds fly vertically! 4 Sparrowhawks in all! Jack says that they will be back and sure enough after hiding around a dry stone wall for 10mins 3 birds had returned. We tried again but they did the same, flying vertically! This time we tried a different tactic, we both hid in the plantation! This way the birds would fly in and hopefully not see us then we'd jump out and we'd catch them. So after 5mins of waiting a juv male comes in! Lands literally 3ft away from me and Jack completely unknowing that we are there! We give it a bit for him to settle then jump up to try to push him into the heligoland but he just flys over the top again! 

By this time the light is getting too dark to be trapping the birds so we returned empty handed. But we were going to try the following night.

This time we arrive at the plantation when it is getting dark and 3 Sprawks flush out, 2 Females and a Male. We open the mist net in the plantation and Jack hides behind the dry stone wall and I hide in the Vaadal. Watching from here I see a female drop into the plantation but bounce from the net and fly away, then another female comes in and bounces again! Then the male lands 10ft away from me, eyeing up a couple of the fir trees behind me before turning and flying towards the mist net, success! Jack extracts him and we head back to the obs with one 1st winter male Sparrowhawk. A brilliant experience and I doubt that I will get any closer to a Sparrowhawk in the field again! Cheers Jack!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A new feature on the blog and hopefully one that I will be able to share with you more often, is a quick sketch and description that I did of the Pec Sand at Upton this morning. Should do this more often and when I do I'll pop it on here seen as not many people seem to, this is where I say that you might be able to learn something about taking descriptions for rarity submissions but hopefully it will be the other way round with you the reader giving me hints and tips on what to add etc to my sketches for that day that I need to do a proper description of a BB. So comments on how rubbish/good you think it is will be most appreciated and really helpful, cheers.

Oh and also here is a little treat for you all, to say thank you for all the helpful comments!

Image Copyright Kris Gibb

Everything in one shot! White on the outer tail feather, slim trailing edge, white on the coverts, barring on the belly and underwing! This is what makes me loves birdwatching and gets me way more excited than Empidonax sp.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Quick One

I heard this story whilst on Fair Isle so thought I'd share it here. It goes like this, group of birders on Fair Isle claim a Blyth's Reed they get all excited and ring the obs and let them know, more people go and see the bird and confirm that it is indeed a Blyth's Reed, more people get excited but they soon realise that the bird doesn't look very well. But it's still a Blyth's Reed and are really excited. Deryk turns up looks in scope at said bird ''that's a Reed Warbler'' takes another look ''thats a dead Reed Warbler'' goes and picks bird up and proves it was indeed a Reed Warbler.

Morale of the story, don't think that any bird you have in the field is gonna be rare just because you're on Fair Isle and elsewhere always presume its the common alternative and prove it otherwise. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lapland Buntings

So I saw my first Lapland Bunting of my stay in Fair Isle on 27th August, it started with one on Golden Water that flew around for a bit before departing south, Deryk then had one at the obs then Simon had one flying south later on. Then one of Jack's mates had it on North Ron, at the time we thought that all these birds could be the same bird. Oh how wrong we were, as the next 2 weeks proved. For everyday following on from this initial sighting I would see Lapland Buntings! They were everywhere, mainly in the North and West of the Island where the best views were to be had with birds seemingly happy to stay on the deck until about 5ft away sometimes! After about the first week we'd be walking round on census and hear the familiar trill and chip and just casually say lap bunt and note down how many we'd seen! Whilst on the island we all thought that we would be able to break the previous day total for the island of 90 set 13th September 1960, but we managed to equal it two days on a row! With exactly 90 on both 29th and 30th! Then we finally managed to smash it on the 1st with 142 then double a 50 year old record with 184 on the 2nd! The number for them then levelled off to around 120-110 across the whole island for the rest of my stay. During this time we took the opportunity to try and trap and ring some, one cause it would be cool but also to see if there were any of the subcalcaratus race. On the whole we were very successful managing to process probably around 30 birds of which several had large wings with some of ones around 101mm, I'm sure more will come of it soon so lets see! My daily totals for Lap Bunts were as follows-

27th- 1
28th- 10
29th- 51
30th- 55
31st- 74
1st- 35
2nd- 12
3rd- 25
4th- 34
5th- 28
6th- 10
7th- 15
8th- 34
9th- 49
10th- 19

You can see why they are also called Lapland Longspurs

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arctic Warbler

So I decided that a full trip report of Fair Isle is gonna take a while to do, so while that is in progress I thought I'd share some short stories of my time in Fair Isle.

It was the morning of Tuesday 31st August and me and Jack Ashton-Booth were in the office at FIBO doing various tasks when Carrie the ranger came in and said that Ian, one of the candidates for the wardens job had just caught what he thought was an Arctic Warbler in the Vaadal Heligoland! So we both flew across the obs to the ringing room where Ian and his wife were standing holding a bird bag, Jack asked to see it and Ian pulled out a stunning ARCTIC WARBLER!!! WOW cracking little bird and now we confirmed it was indeed as Ian thought an Arctic Warbler we started ringing everyone on the Island that would want to see the bird. Within 15mins everyone had assembled in the ringing room and Jack got to ring the warbler, one of his dream birds! A quick description was taken for the formal submission and photos taken and the bird was released into the plantation. Very elusive throughout the rest of the day, but showed well the following day in lovely sunshine along with Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Deryk holding the Arctic Warbler with Ian the finder in the background.

The warbler close up, mega!!!


Sunday, September 05, 2010

A special little warbler turns up....

A sheep walking along a wall....

Ringing Lapland Buntings..... they are everywhere!

Shocking photo of a beast bird....

Lazy evenings spent trapping Lapland Buntings before heading back to the obs for a beer, quality

Today it was windy, a lot....