Blog

Tue 31st August 2010

Posted on September 1, 2010 at 1:30 AM

birds : Went in for a bit of seawatching on Sunday as the winds were coming in quite stiffly from the northwest, and so it was a little disappointing after 2 hours of watching to just get 2 Sooty and 2 Balearic Shearwaters, plus 2 Great and 3 Arctic Skuas. Nice to see them, but I was after more. The two species of skua however were new for the year and brought me up to 152 species - surely I can get another 11 birds in the next 4 months to break my record?

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a newly-arrived Wheatear resting after its journey across the Channel

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Two better sightings however, were two new species for the garden list in the space of just three days. On Saturday, very early in the morning, a Spotted Flycatcher swooped in and landed briefly on the line of trees next-door before continuing south. Then on Monday morning I heard a familiar call and looked up to see a Greenshank fly pretty low over the garden, heading NW. Not too shabby for the garden list.

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Yesterday the winds swung round to the East and look to be staying there all week, so I am looking forward to flocks of drift migrants on all the headlands soon. I had a couple of hours up Pleinmont this afternoon in the strong sunlight but the only things showing were the commoner chats, but it felt really good (I didn't see the Wryneck or Ortolan that were there). But things are looking up - September tomorrow and the winds in the East - can't ask for anything more! (oh, apart from having to start work again tomorrow).

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Whinchat, Pleinmont

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juvenile Stonechat, Pleinmont

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moths : Trapping has been terribly poor - August has been just awful. The Square-spot Rustic below emerged from a pupa that I dug up whilst gardening, that's why it is looking so fresh. Square-spot Rustic is the probably one of the commonest "breeding" species in the garden. When I removed the front lawn a few years ago, I collected about 30 moth pupae and put them in a pot to see the variety of noctuid that emerged. And yes, all of those which were not parasitized were Square-spot Rustic!

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I have no idea what type of fly this is, but it ran around like a spider - most weird.

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nonsense : I have managed to get the video problem sorted by creating a video gallery rather than trying to insert videos straight into this blog. Click on the picture below to open up last month's video.

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Tue 24th August 2010

Posted on August 24, 2010 at 4:15 PM

birds : The last few days have been spent looking after the children and doing tasks at home so I have not been out searching for birds at all. Yesterday, I did go for a brief walk with Anais and we saw plenty of Willow Warblers but little else, but we did drive past a Ruff feeding on the saltmarsh at L'Eree which was a new species for the year.

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A Ruff feeding at L'Eree saltmarsh

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moths : A brief swing to southerly winds improved the situation slightly and resulted in two new species for the garden on the night of 20th/21st August. A Twin-spotted Wainscot was probably blown in from the reedbed at the Track Marais and perhaps the Clepsis spectrana was also.

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Twin-spotted Wainscot

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Clepsis spectrana (a.k.a Cyclamen Tortrix)

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One morning it was very wet in and around the moth trap as this Swallow Prominent shows. It is surprising to discover that there can be many moths flying in heavy rain, and this kind of weather doesn't seem to reduce the catch as much as the wind or cold does.

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You can see the reflection of my head in each of the water droplets as I took the photo.

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This Earwig was on the moth trap and then it suddenly seemed to change from brown to white! You can see the old skin just behind it so it had just moulted into this weird glass-like creature.

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nonsense : Well, yesterday I became a year older than I was - I have now been an adult for twenty years. Being 38 in football makes me a veteran, and 38 in birding makes me quite youngish, but 38 in mothing makes me an infant!

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The most chocolatty cake ever invented cooked by Rosie - muy delicioso!

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This book was a present and it is amazingly awesome. It is a bird identification book with no pictures. As it is an "advanced" ID guide it presumes that you know what you are looking at and it has bullet points that you can go through to check that you have seen all the salient features. Also very usefully, it specifies how to age and sex every single species which is not covered very well by most guides. A bird-geek's book and one I shall be taking out into the field whenever possible.

Fri 20th August 2010

Posted on August 21, 2010 at 3:35 PM

birds : The birding gods were smiling down on me today. So jammy was I this morning that I am thoroughly ashamed.

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Yesterday a few people had seen a group of 3 Black Storks flying around in the Rue Mainguy area late in the afternoon. This was incredible. Only one previous record in Guernsey - way back in 1962 - and I haven't seen a Black Stork since Israel 16 years ago. However, the news was not good as they had disappeared within half an hour, and anyway, I couldn't get out to search as Rosie was in bed (she works nights btw) and I was sorting the kids tea out, etc. So I was pacing the garden, looking skyward just in case, but I wasn't too disheartened, as I expected that they would roost somewhere overnight and I'd have a second opportunity to see them in the morning.

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So as soon as I could this morning, I checked a few likely sites such as Barras Lane, Vale Pond and Track Marais, in case the storks were feeding. But with no sign, I waited at home until the sun came out and the birds would start flying. And I was in the garden scanning when I received a much appreciated call from Jamie that the birds were up and flying again in a similar area as yesterday. The timing was terrible though, as Rosie had just driven away, and all 3 kids were still in the house in their pj's!

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So, action stations - I needed to get them all into the car within a minute and set off to look for them. Slight complication was I had to get Anais to Rosie first as she had an appointment, so I ran up to her room to get her dressed. Job done, I stuck my head out of the skylight and had a quick look westwards, and there in the distance were 3 dark spots circling slowly!!! I sprinted down the stairs to get my bins - but where the hell were they? - I had them a minute ago - into the garden, but I couldn't see the birds again with the naked eye - so back in the house to look for the bins again - how can they just disappear?? - into the playroom and there is Aidan parading around with them round his neck!! The little ***** - so I grab them off him quick and back into the garden, no sign - climb to the top of the climbing frame, no sign - so sprint back up the stairs, and as I glanced out of the landing window as I ran by, there they were, floating in the wind, really low, just beyond the row of houses opposite - Superb!

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Black Storks flying past the house

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But they immediately disappeared behind the large conifer opposite, so I ran back down again and grabbed my camera in case they came overhead. But they didn't. The stiff SW-erly pushed them further away towards Oatlands and when they appeared again from behind the conifer they were just little dots in the camera.

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the best photo I could get of the Black Storks - two birds here, and sort of a stork-shape to the blob!

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So, an extremely lucky sighting - I was struggling to get out and look for the birds, so they had the decency to come and see me, and I feel very privileged. It is just disappointing that I only had very brief views. As far as I know they weren't seen again and probably headed straight to the NE corner of the island, leaving from Fort Doyle back towards France.

Tue 17th August 2010

Posted on August 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM

birds : Visited the reedbed at the Claire Mare this morning in the vain hope that the Aquatic Warbler that Chris had trapped yesterday might be showing. It was quite blowy and drizzly and not exactly the best conditions for reedbed-watching. The Willow Warblers and Sedge Warblers were showing well in the line of Tamarisks but no sign of the Aquatic. A Green Sandpiper flying over the pool was a first for the year, but I soon gave up as the rain persisted, and resorted to watching Vazon beach from the car and taking pictures of wet birds.

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Sandwich Tern, Vazon - mostly in first-winter plumage.

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Starling, Vazon - some adult feathers on the belly, wings, tail and couple on the back. 

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Swallow, Vazon - there were quite a few, presumably newly-arrived, hirundines resting on the sand in the poor weather.

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moths : Some microscope work has resulted in two new species for the garden, recorded in June - Scrobipalpa acuminatella and Coleophora glaucicolella - both small moths which look pretty much identical to some other small moths. Apart from that, the poor August continues.

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Coleophora glaucicolella

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Chinese Character

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nonsense : Football training passed by without any need for an ambulance although I was consistently second-to-last on all the fitness exercises. The annual summer visit to town today where we spent a zillion quid on uniforms and shoes. The kids bought Super Mario Kart and classic Sonic games today for their Nintendos - they might get a chance to have a go on them soon. Done some landscape gardening in the back garden and created this magnificent safe-play area. When I say safe, that is a relative term - see if you can spot the obvious trip hazard which has indeed already been a trip hazard numerous times!

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Pointless things parents say no.1035 - "Aidan, don't fall!" - a game of extreme hide and seek at Bordeaux on Monday. But whilst trying to extract Aidan down, I did spot a Pine Hawk-moth on the tree trunk.

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Sat 14th August 2010

Posted on August 14, 2010 at 2:45 PM

birds : The winds picked up a bit later on in the week, and with the direction still north-westerly, I tried a couple of seawatching sessions. I am not a terrific seawatcher - I usually get restless as I prefer to be on the move whilst birding. However, I am becoming more keen recently - I think that I appreciate the sit-down a bit more than I used to! The first session on Wednesday wasn't too great, with a couple of Balearic Shearwaters, but Friday was much better with a couple of hours of regular shearwater passage.

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Sooty Shearwater and Manx Shearwaters passing the Casquets Lighthouse

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There were totals of 3 Sooty, 1 Balearic and 19 Manx Shearwaters, plus another 10 unidentified, mostly-distant shearwaters. Best birds of the day were 3 young Black Terns that went past, a species I do not see every year here. A flock of Common Scoter and a juvenile Kittiwake were both pretty early.

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Migrant landbirds have mostly been Wheatears, Willow Warblers and Reed Warblers so far. I recorded this Reed Warbler making a half-hearted attempt at a song.

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translation : "I'm giving you a song here because, well I suppose that's just what I do, but to be honest I can't really be bothered. I mean it's not gonna lead anywhere - 'it's the middle of August and I don't want to commit to anything, and anyway, I'm off to Africa soon . . . . ."

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As can be seen on the BUBO Listing button on the right here, Sooty Shearwater, Common Scoter and Black Tern bring my 2010 year list to 146 species. I don't know what has gone right this year but that total is already bigger than I've had in the last six years for the full year.

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As can be seen on the graph above, 162 is my best year-list in Guernsey - not coincidentally the last year before I had children. There is a very clear pattern shown, that a birders year list is inversely proportional to the number of babies in the house! But there is hope for new-father birders that as the babies get older, the lines start to rise again. Whether I can get another 17 species before the end of the year, I don't know - but it is a possibility. [btw, if you do not use the BUBO Listing website to manage your bird lists then you are simply not cool - click on www.bubo.org to log onto the site].

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moths : With the poor conditions continuing, I was not expecting anything good, and indeed there has been very few moths in the trap, but I surprisingly managed to pull out a first for the Channel Islands!

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Platytes alpinella - rather a smart crambid moth and new for Guernsey!

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Mayfly - I can't remember ever having one of these in the trap before

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nonsense : Lawlor & Lawlor - 12 years and counting!

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Saw this on the internet and the cute girl reminded me of cute Rosie. So I changed the names and blokes hairstyle. Original artwork can be found here.

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Football training starts on Monday evening and I am a bit concerned that I am totally out of shape - but then I saw this photo of a 33-year-old, ex-world footballer of the year, turning up for pre-season training at Corinthians, and I suddenly don't feel so fat!

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Ronaldo ate all the pies it seems