Tuesday 30 December 2008

My goose is cooked - not yet!

Following my goose-bonanza, I went to the inlaws and had goose for lunch! Felt a bit bad about this, but it was darn tasty!

Today, I got a call from Colin to say there was an Egyptian Goose sitting with Greylags in the field just on the edge of Perry. I shot down there and to my delight, there it was. So, after much hard work, nappies and foreign trips, I beat my record, with this my 169th species for the year. I have missed several species, so without the other commitments, it could have been higher. Lowlights were dipping Raven (again) and Little Tern by literally seconds and missing the bird of the year, a Black Stork, which would have been viewable from the west end of Grafham back in the summer. Never mind!

So this, probably my last full year birding at GW was pretty good, I didn't continue my trend of finding a BB rarity, but did ok, with my best finds being Honey Buzzard, Ring-necked Parakeet, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Bonxie, Arctic Skua and Red-necked Grebe, plus a number of enjoyable patch ticks, such as Crane, Spoonbill (found by Mark Piercey), Water Pipit (found by Colin Addington), Firecrest (found by Ray Presley) and Storm Petrel (found by Colin Addington). Also, it has been a good year for birds at GW, particularly breeding waterbirds and wintering wildfowl, possibly linked to the maintenance of high water levels throughout the year. This has been a disaster for autumn wader migration, but good for aquatic plant growth, leading to the high duck numbers.

I hope all you birders reading this have had a good year too, and all the best for a bird-filled 2009. Maybe we will get a Tengmalm's...

A Christmas Goose!

Our first Christmas at home with the new nipper and my first patch birding on Christmas day. Sadly, it did not result in an American Robin, with the best bird being the regular Barn Owl with the manky wing, or possibly the 14 lb turkey I cremated later on.

Adelaide enjoyed unwrapping her presents and then playing with the wrapping paper, and too much booze and food was consumed by all.

On boxing day, Santa had left a couple of avian pressies with first three Dark-bellied Brents sitting out on the middle of the reservoir being the only Brents seen this year since a single on New Years Day! They were later joined by a fourth bird. More excitement was to come... While watching the Brents, they suddenly stretched their necks and started calling. They then took flight and joined a group of geese flying towards me along the north shore. I switched to my scope and realised they were dark, with white flashes encircling their beaks - White-fronts! They came straight towards me down the reservoir, 30 in all, passing straight over me showing off nice black belly bars, and dark underwings. They headed off towards Paxton Pits. The Brents peeled off and circled back west down the reservoir. Fantastic - my first White-fronts at Grafham Water, and my 168th species for the year, thus equaling my previous yearlist record.

The usual cast of diver, grebe, scaup and RC pochards were still off the dam, and together with a crisp, frosty dawn, it had been a beautiful way to start the day.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Ma-ma, Da-da, Greenshank

Have been spending a bit of time teaching Adelaide wader identification. We have started from scratch, ie 'repeat the name after me'. Not really working yet. She definitely liked the word 'stint' as she was a bit sick when I mentioned it, which I took to be her way of communicating pleasure. We decided to leave North American peeps til later (well, maybe in 10 years time).

Well, it is nearly Christmas. In a few years time she will be opening the wrapping paper on her first pair of bins, presumably with built in digital camera, species-recognition-technology and mp3 player, which will be much more fun that the high-chair she is getting this year.

Saw the barn owl again over the set-aside across from the house this morning. It has a lot of feather damage on the end of one wing. It has either had a skirmish with another raptor, been shot, or eaten one too many voles and crash landed in a hedge. Good to see one back in here after the field was ploughed up in the summer and we found a moribund barny a week later.

Monday 22 December 2008

Downhill from here

Well, we are passed the shortest day of the year, so it is downhill to spring from here on. In two and a half months the first Sand Martins and Wheatears will be back. Fantastic! Had a wander round this morning, with highlights being a Kingfisher and six Goosander in Dudney Creek, the GND, Red-necked Grebe and 5 Red-crested Pochards off the dam and that was about it. Oh, and two Barnacle Geese (feral) with the Greylags at Marlow, one of which had a BTO ring and a red Darvic ring, and was apparently one of the feral birds caught and ringed in Bedfordshire a few years ago.

View from Dudney field back towards Mander CP and Valley Creek.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Skin Cream for babies and more of the same on the shortest day

A nice walk with Willow along the dam this morning in some mellow winter sunshine on this the shortest day of the year. My friend, the GND was still present and was very obliging, sitting just off the dam and allowing close approach. At one point a bout of preening caused it to dislodge a mantle feather which it struggled to reach to remove.

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver
The Red-necked Grebe was showing well, though still fairly distant and I managed a couple of slightly better photos.

Red-necked Grebe with a Great Crested Grebe in the foreground

Red-necked Grebe
The five Red-crested Pochards were in Gaynes along with the female Scaup nearby. Also, this 'scaup-faced' Tuftie was off the dam, showing the extent of white they can sometimes have.

Tufted Duck with a white face.

Yesterday, Adelaide found a new use for yoghurt...

And the day before, a new mode of transport...

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Day off - hurrah. Murky misty crap - boooo!

Quick scan through the murk on the dam revealed the GND lurking near the tower, the Black-necked Grebe frantically diving around the south end of the dam, and the usual Red-necked Grebe hiding in the distance off Plummer. The Water Pip obligingly flew past me calling and landed on the shore. Otherwise shed loads of big gulls chasing the Cormorants for their breakfast and loads of scarce and rare stuff hidden in the fog.

A quick dip at Tesco where the berries were not tempting Waxwings, then on to Coveney where the Rough-legged Buzzard heaved over the car shortly after arrival, before doing some text book hovering, showing off her gleaming white backside. She then was escorted north towards Little Downham where I lost her amongst the gloom.
I then dipped on the Tundra Beans at Waterbeach. In fact, I dipped on all 300 geese! There was not a single one to be seen.
Back to The Mighty GW for a quick look at the gulls which revealed the usual nada.

Padzy Pea produces proper plop

Ok, so while I was away, Adelaide *Padzy Pea* decided that she would start eating solid food. So, this is great, obviously, but what it means is that the nappy full of creamy yellow, fragrant poop has been exchanged for proper brown Glasgow station toilet smelling human dump. Yikes! I thought facing a jasmine-tinted piccallily fest was hard at 5 in the morning, but waking up to one of these baby wonders, is pure terror! I am doing my best to make myself scarce around nappy time, and have perfected the blocked nose, so that I can never smell that she needs her nappy changing if asked.

What exacerbates this problem is that Adz has decided that when put on her back she will pretend to be a fish and flap her legs wildly, try and grab between her legs and consequently, unless you are equipped with 1. Lighting reactions, 2. Four arms, 3. a snorkel, you, baby and the nursery rapidly get a covering of aforementioned slurry.


She is cute though and I am sure that makes up for it!!

Blurred Grebe

So despite being "my" Red-necked Grebe (I found it at Grafham Water back in early November), this bird refuses to come anywhere near me. Is it embarrassed I wonder? Or simply aloof? All the other scarce have come in camera range recently, but whenever I have my camera in my pocket, this monkey decides to peg it. When I don't have my camera, it is close enough to see up it's nostrils...
This is as good as it gets.

Why is the White Hawk white?

Here is a photo I took of a White Hawk sitting in a Cecropia tree in Costa Rica three weeks ago. It is looking miserable because it is white and it's prey can see it coming. In the winter, they fly down to Antarctica where they prey on penguin chicks, using their snowy plumage to hide among the icebergs, snow drifts and frost. They also hunt rats and pigeons among recycling centres for white goods.


Spent the morning Christmas shopping with Adelaide in Queensgate, Peterborough, where I felt I was backstage at the Jeremy Kyle show! Scary place! Headed back for lunch, whereupon I received a call from Chris Orders to say he had a small grebe swimming around the end of his fishing rod at the south end of the dam, which he thought could be a Black-necked.

I shot down there and was delighted to find the Black-necked Grebe showing really close off the dam. I clambered over the wall and on to the shore and whilst Chris carried on fishing, I took some shots:

Even better was to come, when Chris whipped out a large Rainbow Trout and offered it to me. I gratefully accepted and took it home for tea wrapped unceremoniously in a Morrisons carrier bag. Vicky was less than pleased when I presented her with this enormous fish in the living room!

Later, Vicky was heading out for her first Christmas party, so I with laptop to hand, followed some instructions on t'internet to mutilate this beautiful fish. Eventually, after much swearing, slipping and sliding, I managed to remove all the gore and grime and produce two fine fish filets. One of them was slung in a pan with some butter and garlic and the other headed for the freezer. Shortly, a delicious fishy tea was served. Thanks Chris!

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Sick Leave

Despite under the cloud of man-flu, I dragged myself out in the afternoon sunshine to see if some fresh air would lift my spirits. Willow certainly seemed pleased to be out. The Great Northern Diver was showing well off the dam, catching several small fish.

The Red-necked Grebe was busily feeding near the south end of the dam and even the female Scaup was active. The Water Pipit was not in it's usual spot on the south end of the dam; it was here yesterday afternoon.

So, a breath of fresh air and apart from a coughing fit when I got back in the warmth of the house, I feel a bit better!

Sunday 7 December 2008

Recent birds

Great Northern Diver - 7th November 2008

Scaup, female - 7th December 2008

Scaup, female - 7th December 2008

Water Pipit, on the dam, 6th December 2008
Well, following my trip to Costa Rica, Grafham has continued to be good. Today, a female Scaup off Plummer CP was new. Nearby, the Water Pipit was still showing well on the dam. It was initially on the north side but later moved down to the south. The first winter Great Northern Diver was showing well on the calm reservoir near Marlow CP, viewable from the north end of the dam. Lots of birds on the move this morning, following a hard frost, with flocks of Fieldfares, Redpolls, Siskins and Woodpigeons over.