Friday 25 April 2014


I recently hosted those birding icons of badinage and repartee, the Dove Steppers. Robert Yaxley and Jonny Rankin made a lasting impression on my eldest who wants to know why people kill doves when they mean peace. My answer? I don't know. That makes me sad - I can't answer my four year old daughter as to why the world is cruel. What can we do she asks? I donated to Dove Step but I felt it wasn't enough and now I know why. Because of hunting. Spring migration hunting. Illegal hunting. Persecution of protected species. It makes my stomach churn.

Tonight like many others I took part in the twitter storm instigated by Chris Packham and I urged people to write to their MEP. And write to the environment minister in Malta. I have done the first and I will so the second. I love bird watching, birding, bird spotting, birdwatching. Who cares about the label? I love it but more than that I love birds and the only way I can think to support those that take part in the Birdlife Malta camps without being there is through the legal process. Malta is a signatory to the EU birds directive and as an EU citizen I can ask my MEP to ensure that Malta honours it's legal responsibilities. I have done so through which did the hard work. I just needed to know my own address and to write the letter. I asked for two things:- an end to illegal hunting on Malta.
                                                                                                             - an end to legal spring hunting which is against the EU birds directive.

We shall see where this leads but Chris Packham has proved the perfect magnet to facilitate change, we can make a difference. The twitter storm managed to trend nationally and provoke international interest. Not too bad. Now we need to follow it through. Talk is cheap. Watch these videos

And email this chap 

You know it makes sense. So does my daughter.

Wednesday 23 April 2014


Im on a week off and in that time with the addition of a day the previous weekend I have managed to add 17 patch ticks. Not gone mental at all and currently sitting on 76 species and 85 points (I think). Such luminaries as Moorhen and Greylag are now gracing the list and no less than three new patch ticks were acquired. The best of the three was undoubtedly a pair of Gadwall  which at present seem set on breeding in one of the ditches. A fly past Canada Goose was enough for me... May I see one of those each and every year but no more.

Gank. Honk.
There seem to be a few more of these guys breeding on patch this year.
The now very bleached Kumlien's Gull went past earlier in the month
The first migrants are in and a Sedge Warbler singing from a bush abutting the caravan park was probably the best so far. Nothing too crazy but House Martin also added yesterday. On the sea and a few Fulmars passing close inshore drew a Gannet along the shoreline. Usually the year tick is a spot on the horizon. Curlew and Golden Plover are both migrants on the patch so getting them both was a fillip.

Away from the patchwork and it has been upland forests including plenty of Schedule 1 action. I had an Osprey on the 1st April and several Goshawks which are always good. Locations obviously arent even going to be referred to due to work/their sensitivity etc. Not sure you can garner much from the sky here though:

Sunday 13 April 2014

Craggy Island

Ok so Flamborough is more a headland than an island but it has held a Crag Martin for the last couple of days and Im generally an irritable drunk like Father Jack. After it reappeared yesterday me and the girls sped the short distance up the road to connect. Despite a slightly sweary Garry Bagnell effing and jeffing in front of my kids when the bird shifted from Thornwick to North Landing it was certainly a pleasant twitch with the bird showing to a couple of feet in front of the assembled throng of familiar faces. Crag Martin isnt a bird I would risk travelling far for as I have seen too many to recount in Spain but they are smart, sassy little buggers despite their dull hues and this one was no exception, feeding within a couple of feet of the watching birders. Cracker

This morning also saw my first trip to Barmston this month. I have permission to visit every weekend now until the end of spring. Which is awesome...the issues with being a parent! A massive nine year ticks were found, all one pointers alas but enjoyable none the less. Driving in a couple of singing Song Thrushes were a late addition to the yearlist. I heard many through the visit. As soon as I arrived at the cliff top it was obvious the Sand Martins were back with about 40 birds buzzing about in 6c. A quick check of the sea saw my first Shelduck since my debut visit to Barmston in 2008 resting amongst the Common Gulls.

Down the beach a couple of Grey Plovers were moving through. Weirdly the usual throng of Sanderlings was absent but passing Curlew and Golden Plover more than made up for it. Curlew occur occasionally in spring but dont really use the beach and Golden Plover are pretty scarce with only a single record last year. Amongst the gulls were a few returning Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  These breed in Bridlington a few miles up the coast.

After my jaunt along the beach I decided to have a quick check of the woods and low and behold the first warblers had returned. A Willow Warbler flitting along a fence was looking very much like a migrant but the singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcap were certainly staking claim to their territories. The chiffs were actually a patch tick. Number 132...

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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