31 January 2010

A day at the races

Back in 'the acre' for a day of watching other people strain sinew, pull muscles and bugger knees. As far as I could tell, 'adventure racing' is basically an excuse for the wearing of lycra by people who should really know better, that, and outright masochism.

Pre-race, a suspiciously shiny bike.

It's Lance Armstrong! Maybe.

Witnessed all manner of arse-over-tit action on this slope, crumpled heaps make for crap photos mind, so here's a terribly proficient chap. He's so good, he takes a blurred background wherever he might go to ensure an impression of speediness - the sign of a true professional.

PS. Three Crossbills, and a few Redwing and Siskin overhead were the upshot of the bird action.

30 January 2010

On yer bike

Didn't do 'owt today. Carried out a bit of carbon free birding yesterday though. Tredegar Park produced v little bordering on f little; the old Tredegar Park golf course, despite looking good for a Lesser Pecker or two, just turned up a pair of Dipper (with another at Pye Corner); the glorious Ynys-y-fro Reservoir held 2 Gadwall and 14 Pochard; and totting up the Mallards on the canal between Fourteen Locks and Cwmcarn resulted in a large, though still uninspiring, count of 170.

29 January 2010

Does he need a dictionary?

Inquiry [ɪnˈkwaɪəri, ˈɪnkwəri] noun, plural -quir⋅ies.
1. a seeking or request for truth, information, or knowledge.
2. an investigation, as into an incident.
3. the act of inquiring or of seeking information by questioning; interrogation.
4. a question; query.

27 January 2010

Look what I found...

Another day of pottering up and down a sea-wall somewhere in deepest Gloucestcestcestershire (well Oldbury actually but anyhoo...). Whilst counting the Teal couldn't help but notice the vertical-striped little fella pictured below. Presumably this is the same bird that frequented Slimbridge in early December, you'd have thought it might have been seen elsewhere in the interim mind; perhaps it had arrived overnight on a monstrous westerly we all failed to notice. Either way, it was feeding on Lagoon I before a genius of a dog-walker decided that there just aren't enough places to walk a pooch, went off-piste and blazed a new trail right round the margins of the pool. At this point the teal relocated to the tidal reservoir (later, the incoming tide pushed it back onto the lagoon).

A scene of pre-disturbance bliss.

"Hello ladies, if this was the 1940s I could impress you with my endless supply of chocolate and stockings. Mind you, if this were the 1940s this lagoon wouldn't be here, hmmm, this chat up line needs more thought."

Post-flush snooze; in the meantime three Siskin flew NE (ish), a fly-by Shelduck hybrid was followed up-river by 25 Barnacle Geese, and a Little Egret flushed from the same ditch it was in on the 8th,... that must be a mighty fine ditch. In fact, I know it is a mighty fine ditch because, rather than feed elsewhere, the egret stood a little way off looking as grumpy as an emo version of Jack Dee with piles. I hope he doesn't self-harm due to momentary loss of minnow action.

23 January 2010

All quiet on the western front

Spent a lovely Saturday seeking the Great White Egret. It was a day of exotic travel to a point almost five yards over the border into Greater Cardiff - a feverish dreamscape of a Unitary Authority, a honeycomb of partly occupied light industrial units besieged by ropey ponies shivering in the shimmering wintry sunlight and, today at least, haunted by the dull clad restless creatures of the visionary carnival that is birding,... a bit like the better parts of Newport really.

Mind you, despite hanging around until I froze my frontal lobe, I failed to connect with the egret,... which was a bit of a shame, nice to get out though.

22 January 2010

The theme persists

Rock Pipit,... Greylag Goose,... Jack Snipe,... dog skeleton,... huge vat of lubricant,...

Once again, the ineffable wit of the litter fairies leaps to the fore.

19 January 2010

Refuse to ponder

Shopping trolley recently salvaged from a ditch. A bit of a 'design classic' bordering on cliche really. Do you suppose the yobbos who pilfer, ride, dump these things, are doing it as a conscious act of homage to oiks of yesteryear (a sort of ironic tip of the hat to light-fingered ne'er-do-wells of the 1960s/70s)? Or is this sort of thing so ingrained in the 'bored youth' that it represents little more than unconsciously arrived at pastiche?

The life of the fly-tipping critic is a meandrous path strewn with ambiguity, ambivalence and coke cans.

PS. On the bird front, Ruddy Duck on the 'square pool' at Avonmouth and a Kingfisher at Hoar Gout were the best of a quiet day out and about.

17 January 2010

Smew, Smew, Barney McGrew...

The redhead Smew, along with it's kleptoparasitic little matey Black-headed Gull, performed admirably on the back lagoon at Goldcliff late morning/early afternoon. Not too much else of note though, just a trickle of Skylarks overhead, a single Golden Plover and a pair of Peregrines kicking seven shades of scheiße out of an interloping immature female.

The golden lagoons; I'm blaming a half-arsed nod to Lee Friedlander and dynamic symmetry for this one.

PS. Another Golden Plover was amongst the Lapwing down Boat Lane.

13 January 2010

I'm sorry Shaun

Aaargh! The attack of the mutant killer snow zombies has begun.

"Just look at the face: it's vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who's lost a bet." Dianne [Lucy Davis], Shaun of the Dead (Pegg & Wright, 2004).

12 January 2010

Are you telling me that this sucker is nuclear?

The local kids are outside playing with Marty McFly's DeLorean DMC-12,... the snow-folk do not like it one little bit.

11 January 2010

Single observer 'rares' suck

Yes-ter-day, all the wild-fowl seemed so far a-way,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay.
Oh the joy-of a duck-sur-vey.

Why my-larks had to go I don't know, they would-n't stay.
Digiscoping went all wrong, now I long for yes-ter-day.

Sud-den-ly it's not half the fun it used to be
Now a descrip-tion is requir-ed of me,
It's meant to-be a duck-sur-vey.

Why my-larks had to go I don't know, they would-n't stay.
Digiscoping went all wrong, now I long for yes-ter-day.

Yes-ter-day, I quite liked all the a-lau-did-ae,
Why'd they find a place to skulk a-way.
Oh the joy-of a duck-sur-vey.

mm mm mm mm mm.

10 January 2010


Another, briefer, visit to Uskmouth today. Couldn't relocate the Bittern but only had a very quick look, did stumble onto another Woodcock though. Water Rails are still scattered about all over the place, one pitching into snow in the middle of a field. Slightly more Cetti's today (4-5) but, generally, still thin on the ground; and Fieldfare, Lapwing and Skylark were still trickling over mostly heading west or south.

The Reed Buntings seem to be doing alright but some of the stuff out there is really struggling. Got a new feeder today, hopefully something will take a shine to it, something rare,... Baltimore Oriole would be nice.

09 January 2010

County and patch ticks!

The United States of Uskmouthia delivered in style today. Four Woodcocks were a nice patch-tick, if rather overdue and London busesque; however, they were totally bitch-slapped by a Bittern which leapt out of the ditch alongside the RaSPBerry cafe/shop and straight onto my Gwent list (the second most glaring hole on the county list plugged!). Overhead, a westward trickle of Lapwing, Fieldfare and Redwing were interspersed with a few Skylark, Blackbird and a couple of Redpoll. The only other 'notables' were nine Water Rail and just two Cetti's at Uskmouth and another Water Rail and a Kingfisher at Goldcliff.

Obligatory picture of disappearing Bittern...

08 January 2010

Severn Estuary goody

Found two Shorelarks at Oldbury today; there I am, counting waders when two larks appear in the bottom of the scope, a couple of little masked marauders on the mud, just rare enough to warm my cockles (despite the sub-zero air temperature and windchill care of the 15 mph north-easterly). A Merlin and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck were the 'best of the rest' but there was plenty of evidence of weather displacement.

Must be a Gwent tick out there this weekend - Lapland Bunting? Shorelark? Smew? Black-throated Thrush?

06 January 2010

Illegal trapping of birds (part 2)

During the festive period a significant number of nets were stolen from Llangorse Ringing Group just over the border in Breconshire. It is very likely that these nets will be used in South Wales or adjacent areas for illegal trapping of birds, if you see anything suspicious whilst out birding or know anything about this incident (or the illegally set net at the Newport Wetlands Reserve in November, more info here), report it ASAFP to the police. Contact details of local Wildlife Crime Officers are available here and a short 'e-leaflet' (whatever that is) on Gwent Police's efforts to combat wildlife crime is available here.

As previously mentioned, mist-netting of birds to be ringed as part of the BTO Ringing Scheme is undertaken in Gwent, however, if you see anything suspicious, err on the side of caution and report it.

It's like birding in an edition of Crimewatch round here.

03 January 2010

Barnacle Bill the Sailor

Spent most of today's daylight hours in and around 'the lanes'. Farmfield/Saltmarsh produced 2 Barn Owl, at least 18 (possibly as many as 34) Golden Plover, a Chiffchaff, a few Water Rail and Cetti's Warblers and 10 Snipe. Boat Lane was a bit quieter, the floods are mostly ice, but the Barnacle Goose is still hanging about and revelling in its splendiferousnessness (for an equally splendiferous song with the most tenuous of links to our goosey friend see here).

01 January 2010

Giving it larch

Went for a frizz flog around the forestry and fridd. Saw and heard a few Crossbills and found loads of feeding sign. The calls were sounding interesting today but I'm putting it down to the ice and snow clad habo for now, will have to double-check at some point. Loads of glazed ice around, the upshot of rain falling through sub-zero air and freezing on whatever it touches; the weight of the ice has done for a few boughs and, if it persists, the frigid barrier between forager and fodder will almost certainly do for a few birds.