birds

Mystery bird challenge

I saw this yesterday out on the common, I do not know what it is though. I did not find it in my Big Boys’ Book of Birds, so hopefully someone who knows how to identify different types of bird from quite a long way away will be able to tell me what it is. It was quite small, about blue tit size; my best guess is some kind of tit or warbler. That is probably wrong though. Apologies for the bad picture as it is covert surveillance footage.

Edit: Thanks to whizzerandchips for identifying this as a Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). That is two lifers in one day as I also saw a swift!

keithlard investergates

Yesterday was the first time I’ve been mobile enough to go down to Henrietta’s Pond for a few weeks. I was worried that I’d missed all the breeding season and seeing such as ducklings, cootlets and moorchicks, but I do not think I have, as I did not see any mini-birds there. At Aldenham Country Park a couple of weeks ago I saw some baby mallards, which were very cute, and I also saw a pair of nesting grebes! Which was terrific.

I was quite excited at one point as I thought I saw Henrietta sitting on a nest, because she has not had a mate for more than a year now and missed the last breeding season. But then she went off and a moorhen was there instead, so it seems unlikely to be a nest, unless the moorhen was babysitting for her. Later I saw Henrietta deep in conversation with a mallard drake. Question, can Pekin ducks mate with mallards? This is something to Investergate.

There is normally a decent size family of Canada geese there, but yesterday there was just one solitary goose moping around the place. So perhaps all his family have gone off on holiday, or maybe they are nesting now. I was a bit worried as I know where their previous nest was, and a whole bunch of people started tramping noisily around the pond, shrieking, laughing, breaking branches, and generally making a racket all over the nesting area. But as they were not startled by an explosion of furious geese, I conclude the nest must be somewhere else.

It made me cringe a bit because if you want to look at birds and such like Wild Life, the only real qualification required is the ability to be quiet and still. It is a bit comical then if you are lurking super stealthily in the undergrowth, and 100 drunken party goers start doing the conga past you. Still it is a busy path along the Dollis Brook there, and the birds are quite used to people, in fact if you go near the pond, Henrietta will try to mug you for biscuits.

I also saw a jay which is pretty exciting, as I saw my first one ever at Aldenham. I thought it was just a big-ass magpie with snappy dress sense, but there was a helpful board nearby with a big picture of a jay, with a caption underneath saying ‘Jay’, in case you did not know what it was. It is no good laughing as I do not know about any types of birds, blame it on my country upbringing.


A jay yesterday. (GFDL picture by Marek Szczepanek from Wikimedia Commons)

I also think it is great that its Latin name is Garrulus glandarius, which means ‘talkative bird that eats acorns’! I think if I was a bird I would be known as Garrulus currymunchius. So that is the end of the Bird News.

The Dollis brook

Geese and friends

Gulls at Fowey, Cornwall

This is in Cornwall’s historic Fowey which I will show you more pictures in a bit. But here is some gulls that caught my intrest while I was wandering around with Jane.

Learn about birds with Computer Jones

As there is a lot of serious ornithological discussion on this journal at the moment, I thought I might ruin it with this clip from Look Around You:

Hergé's adventures of keithlard

Well I went to the Brent reservoir on Saturday for bird noticing fun and photergraphy (as the more eagle eyed readers of this journal will be aware). I hope you do not actually have eagle eyes as that would be a little disquieting, plus it really annoys eagles. It is a hard job being an eagle and they cannot answer back, like the Queen, so next time have a little consideration.

On Sunday I went on my very first Lardax ride, if you do not know it is a special type of bike ride I have invented where you do not really know where you are going when you start off, plus it does not matter how long you take. So as it happened I went to the Lea Valley Navigation where there is a super park all along the canal and lots of people going for bike rides. It is next to the big reservoirs there eg the King George V and William Girling which are completely vast but you cannot get near them, which is a shame as there is apparently lots of intresting birds.

It is understandable that they do not want people messing about there as it supplies a million people’s drinking water in London, but I think you can get a special birdwatching permit to visit them. I might do that, although I do not know what kind of tough interrogation you have to to go through to get the permit. “Do you like birds?” “Yes.” “Are you a terrorist fanatically dedicated to poisoning London’s water supplies?” “No honest.” “Very well off you go then.”

Anyway it was a wizzo day out on the canal and I did see a number of mallards, coots, moorhens, swans and ducks. Also I saw a sleek dark diving bird which I realised straight away was a lifer (that is just a bird you have not seen before). It was quite shy and kept diving every time I pedalled up to it to have a closer look, but later on it took off and flew all around with its mate. It was about goose sized and all black except for white cheeks and throat, with a long pointed bill like a grebe. So I think after consulting my reference books (lookitup boy lookitup lookitup) it is a Great Cormorant. Or if anyone knows better please tell me.

I guess it was over 20 miles there and back which is a good ride, I was not too tired but my bottom was telling me in no uncertain terms that it had had enough when I got back. It was a lovely day of spring sunshine though and it was great being out on the bike. I worked up a big appetite even though I had a packet of Fizzy Fish to sustain me, and in the evening Jane and her neighbour and his girlfriend and me went to the Dignity and then to the Balti for a refreshing curry.

So that is all the adventures I will tell about for now. More news tomorrow!

Swanderful

Things that happened

Well I decided I have been spending too much time in front of the computer doing electronick things, so I went out today in the sunshine and had a very cheerful day. I bikled down to the reservoir again (where I got the super pictures of swans ekcetera before) and did lots more photergraphy. So there will be pictures later. I saw our friend the pochard again, and even got some long-lens surveillance shots of the shy and retiring great crested grebe.

I took the opportunity to try out the super camera backpack I bought from my friend Mike. It has a regular backpack area, but also a separate watertight compartmint with foam padding and dividers for your camera and lenses and all the little rings, filters, batteries, flashcards, wotsits, doodads, and gewgaws that photographers seem to insist on carrying around. It is specially meant for people who like cycling and also like photography, and like cycling on their cycle to places where they can take photographs. And have a back. It is almost like they know me (or my friend Mike).

Anyway it is a magic backpack as although it looks a regular size on the outside, it is massive inside and has got room for a DSLR, 18-55mm lens, 30mm lens, 70-200mm lens, monopod, macro set, 2 litre bottles of finest wheat beer, a baking potato, a bag of ready-made salad, 2 packets of mini poppadoms, a cheesy roll, warm gloves, emergency Google “I’m feeling lucky” T-shirt, a packet of Penn State pretzels, and David Guterson’s Snow Falling On Cedars. So that is jolly good as by chance that is exactly the things that I needed to carry in it today.

It was a lovely evening down by the water and I spent hours admiring the birds dipping and cavorting, incarnadined by the dying rays of vermilion sun (good writing). There was swans and coots and mallards and the aforementioned pochard and grebe and tufted ducks and moorhens and herring gulls and Canada geese and crows and blackbirds. So it does not get any better than that really.

A blackbird yesterday