Thu 6th February 2014

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 1:55 PM

The winter continues to be wet, windy and wild. Granted, extreme weather conditions can cause distress and misery if you are unlucky enough to be caught up in it, but to the unaffected observer it is pretty darn awesome! We've had front after front rolling in off the Atlantic, and with the massive tides at the moment the island is struggling to cope with the water. The waves have been pounding the coastline, swamping buildings and floating away cars. And the last few days have been so wet with rain that the inland lanes are also flooding, with rivers flowing through the countryside. With the island getting hit from both sea and air, it has been rather spectacular.

These poor conditions and warm weather have meant that my "Foot-it" efforts were disappointing (see details here) but I have been more successful with the "Patch-birding". The stormy seas have brought a lot of gulls into the coastline, as they usually do, and I have been regularly checking any flocks I have passed. On 28th Jan, I was driving home past Cobo and noticed a lot of gulls feeding close inshore on the high tide. It was after a meeting and so half-four-ish, and so getting to be quite dark and dull. However, I soon picked up an Iceland Gull amongst the throng, which was excellent, presumably the same one that was seen at Chouet the previous week.

As I watched this bird, I noticed how dark it was, not standing out from the other immature gulls as Icelands usually do. The primaries were not gleaming white, and the rest of the plumage was quite dull and "unbiscuity". I wondered that perhaps this bird was an immature Kumlien's Gull. There had been plenty around the country and of course, we've just had an adult bird. Frustratingly, the bird never was still and I found it difficult to see the details of the plumage properly. It was either bobbing on the waves, feeding frantically or flying around. Even taking proper photos was impossible in the half-light and the couple below were the best of a bad bunch, and have been extremely lightened.

first-winter Kumlien's Gull - Cobo, 28 Jan 14

It was also difficult to get any details in flight as it swooped and flapped, but I did catch a clear dusky tail-band and the primaries again did not glow. I had to leave the bird thinking it was probably Kumlien's but not really nailed-on for certain due to the tricky viewing conditions, but I did have a good gut-feeling. Looking at the photos at home, one picture (the top one) seemed to show some good features - the dusky lines down the primaries, the dark on the tail, the quite brown plumage around the head and breast, the dark bill, the largish size. I have not the bird since, but luckily it moved down the coast to L'Eree where other observers have been able to watch it properly and have confirmed the identification as Kumlien's, which is an excellent start to my year on the 'patch'.

Every day the sea has been choppy, but on 30th Jan there was a brief respite and the bays were calm. It is worth making the most of these still days as it is much easier to find feeding birds. In just 20 minutes on the way home from work I found a Slavonian Grebe at Cobo, a Black-throated Diver at Grandes Rocques and a Great Northern Diver at Port Grat, as well as a few Great Crested Grebes and Razorbills.

On 5th Feb there were 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe at Grandes Havres, plus a welcome return by the Black Redstart in the garden after being missing for a month. Finally, today at lunchtime, I braved the wet weather to look out over the stormy seas from the car park at Fort Hommet and was rewarded with a fine adult Little Gull flying over the headland.

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singing Wren - Fort Hommet - Jan 2014

This Wren was singing at Fort Hommet on one of the few sunny days. I recorded it because it sounded a little atypical for the species. It may have been because it is just warming up, or practising, or just doing some sub-singing But I always like to think, when I hear a slightly different song of a common species, that it is a foreigner singing in a French accent! (or german, or irish, or russian - or wherever our visiting wintering Wrens may come from.)

Grandes Rocques


West coast from Pulias

One of the best decisions I made a few years ago was to stop watching TV. I know there are some amazing TV shows and it is a shame I have missed out on them, but I just can't bear thinking about the hours wasted staring into the corner of the room and the inactivity, loafing on the sofa. I only watch the footie nowadays (and Sherlock!). I'd much rather do something creative and active, but whilst doing these I always either listen to the radio or to podcasts downloaded onto the iPod. These are my top ten favourite podcasts that I listen to, and I'd advise you to do the same - much better than the crap that's on TV most of the bloney time!

1     2     3     4     5

6     7     8      9   10

1. THE FOOTBALL RAMBLE : If you are a fan of football then I strongly advise you to listen to this podcast. One of my favourite hours of the week is the hour I spend listening to this, and I generally listen again straight after. Rather than listening to the insipid football pundits on TV or the gobby gits on these phone-in shows, these guys are funny, intelligent, knowledgeable and have a real love of the game. Pop, Bang, Lovely!!   ---[LINK]---

2. RICHARD HERRING : My favourite comedian, Richard Herring produces a variety of different podcasts at different times. His comedy is intelligent and I appreciate his philosophy of producing content, not for the maximum financial return, but just to 'get it out there' for people to enjoy. Visit his site to see the selection of stuff he produces.   ---[LINK]---

3. KERMODE AND MAYO'S FILM REVIEW : Friday night is film night for me. I spend the evening listening to this radio show, then watch a downloaded film recommended by the good doctor. A very popular podcast & radio show, I am sure lots of readers are wittertainees (hello to Jason Isaacs).   ---LINK---

4. R4 FRIDAY NIGHT COMEDY : A almost continual loop of "The Now Show" and "The News Quiz" - what's not to like? A very pleasant way to spend half an hour.   ---LINK---   ---LINK---

5. FIGHTING TALK : A Radio 5 topical sports show - A popular radio show and generally pretty funny, especially when Bob Mills is on, although I'd have preferred Colin Murray to be still presenting it.   ---LINK---

6. THE MOTH : An American show, it is simple story-telling, people coming up on stage, telling their true story for 10 minutes, without notes or prompts. Some funny, some sad, some incredible.   ---LINK---

7. THE SQUARE BALL : Not for everybody clearly, "The Square Ball" is Leeds United's main fanzine and so this is where I get my LUFC news from. Despite it being very partizan (I am not the kind of football fan that hates other teams), and some of the presenters are a bit annoying, it does give me good insight as to what is going on at the football club.   ---LINK---

8. RADIOLAB : According to the info, this is a "Radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries". This podcast, more than any, gets me thinking "what!? really?", coming up with stuff that's really mind-blowing that you've never thought about before. Love it.   ---LINK---

9. THIS AMERICAN LIFE : A well-known podcast with a documentary theme, but the stories are usually personal and obscure, and full of interest. A quality production and well-worth listening to if you have never before.   ---LINK---

10. R4 COMEDY OF THE WEEK : Now that I have my new phone which has iPlayer, I don't listen to this as often as I can go through the whole week of comedy on Radio4 and listen to all of it. This podcasts picks out one of the best comedy programmes of each week.   ---LINK---

Categories: 2013-2014 Winter, Self-found Rarities