Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Speaking of Bitterns.....

.... I'm in the midst of (finally) cracking on with my online avifauna for Stoke Newington Reservoirs, the object of my unhealthy obsessions for many years, until recently fleeing to the Yorkshire coast. Trawling through my records and photographs has reminded me of just how much I got out of such an ostensibly modest, tiny, urban patch - a golden period, which I at least was able to acknowledge and enjoy at the time.

One of the many, many highlights was the presence of no less than six Bitterns over my final two winters in the meagre reed-bed there - the equivalent of a multiple pile of Christmases, and a succession of memorable experiences and photo opportunities. See here for more:

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Dutch Bittern in South Kensington..... about as likely as a pair of Bearded Tits wintering in a bucketful of reeds in Hyde Park (hang on a second.....), but that's exactly what welcomed us in the European medieval section at the V & A, as it happens just a few minutes after paying my respects to the aforementioned Reedling sisters.

The Bittern is just one small part of a stunningly beautiful tapestry occupying a huge wall in the museum, created in the mid-16th century in the southern Netherlands, also incorporating (amongst many other fascinating features) a variety of other bird and animal life.

What's interesting is how representative the species involved are of the area the tapestry derives from - an area dominated by fens, wetlands, marshes and low-lying agricultural land - hence, the Bittern, the Mallard (above) and well, the Pheasants (below). Also evident is how accurate the features are, particularly on the Bittern - actually better than many contemporary field guides.....

Several aren't quite so straightforward; the birds below show a mixture of features good for both female Pheasant and also for Corncrake (some more than others), the latter of which must also have been a very familiar bird in the area at the time.

And then there's what appears to be a raptor, shown below:

...... and then it just gets weird. Answers on an acid-drenched postcard to the usual address.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

In London, you're never more than six feet away from a Bearded Tit

Back in the smoke on a brief jolly and having followed the exploits of these two ultra-confiding and entertaining female Bearded Tits online since they appeared, absurdly, over a month ago in the middle of Hyde Park, I had to drop in and say hello, and was very glad I did. Amazingly, they remain faithful to the crappiest little reedbed imaginable (by the Diana memorial), oblivious to (or more likely unfazed by) the constant noise and disturbance surrounding them.

The 'reed-bed'

I was minus fancy lens and bins - kit lens and pocket bins were my Fisher Price weapons of choice - but as I'd hoped, it mattered not; the birds are so ridiculously close, it's well worth visiting them without any additional magnification. Half the birder's blogs in England have devoted many trillions of megapixels to these most photogenic and willing targets recently, and so for pretty pictures, see e.g. Dominic's here, or Jonno's here. But if you've got ten minutes to kill en route to the museums, they come very highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Surfin' birds

Despite the howling easterlies and wintry storms (and having fled to London for a few days presently), we did venture out along the beach a couple of days ago, and unexpectedly found the shoreline carpeted with birds.

Raging seas and a constantly shifting bank of surf along the tideline encouraged swirling flocks of Sanderlings and Dunlins, as well as smaller numbers of various other waders, to challenge the marauding ranks of Black-headed and Common Gulls for space.

Sanderlings and Dunlins

Ringed Plover

Sanderlings, Dunlins and Turnstones

Black-headed and Common Gull


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Is Coming

As the wind howls and the sleet splatters against the study window, much as I'd love to bring news of today's outdoor adventures, I'd be lying if I did. And so a few images from these last few days, characterised by bone-chillingly low temperatures and beautiful snow scenes here in Filey.

Female Reed Bunting and Mute swan, East Lea

There have been limited cold weather movements, but nothing too notable, and it's been more a case of appreciating land- and sea-scapes; this is really what mid-winter is all about, and it's hard to undersell the beauty of our adopted manor. Aside from the beach blizzards of the last post, perhaps the most surreal images from the last few days were courtesy of the frozen clay-waterfall in the bay corner the other day (see below.....)

Redwing, House Sparrow, colour-ringed Redshank (of which, details are awaited)

(click on any image to enlarge)

.... and some deep-frozen seaweed on the beach.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Whiteout in the bay

Hard weather finally hit us here on the North Yorkshire coast a couple of days ago, with intense, heavy blizzards on Monday (below) and incoming storms continuing yesterday (above). Our first real snow of the winter, and so into the white to enjoy it - which we surely did, having the entire bay to ourselves...

....... and the bay was like the Arctic, with snow piling up rapidly on the on the rocks, seaweed, and even right across the sand; a rare and amazing sight, and another reminder of what a stunningly beautiful place we live in.

and how it is in the sunshine.....