Saturday 31 January 2015

BirdTrack BirdNerd

I love BirdTrack, and with its powerful 'explore my records' feature, could tell you my species lists for every 1km square I have ever visited in Britain (700+). My January 2015 data for Bedfordshire tells me...

Records: 2484
Locations: 42
Complete lists: 73
Species: 94

I have either i) too much time on my hands, and/ or ii) am a complete nerd.


Wednesday 28 January 2015

Ducks 'n stuff

A quick visit to GLE / GLW this afternoon paid off for this SFYL caper, as a solitary Shelduck added another tick. I don't think I've ever found Shelduck to be exciting, until I started playing this game that is!

I was also stumped by a mucky looking duck with some Tufties on GLE, which I dismissed pretty much straight away as a juv Tufty but the white blaze across the base of the bill (that I'd seen on an obvious female Tufty on GLW the other day) bothered me, so I'd appreciate an opinion from one of the experts - thank you.

Nothing else new but the lone Pinkfoot was knocking about between the field and water at GLE and a Green Sandpiper is always good to see. I've included a record shot of the Green Sand to make sure it passes muster for the standard expected on this blog, given my telling off for the Peregrine shot by Matt :-)


January find of the month award

Last night, at Grizzly's Cafe, on the A1 near Biggleswade, Jeremy Clarkson - massive UK400 Member and some time petrol-head - presented the inaugural prize to this month's find-of-the-month prize-winner, Mr Richard Bashford.

Below - Mr Clarkson life-ticking Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo at Bramingham Park, Luton, with J May Esq.

In front of a huge audience of between six and seven truckers - plus Stephen Northwood - a vagrant - who had wandered in to use the facilities, Mr Clarkson uttered...

''He found a Great White Egret at Roxton, which means that he's found three now. He is the undoubted master of large egret-finding in is surely only a matter of time before he finds an Intermediate at Harrold.''

He continued ''some say that he eats 16 raw Fulmar eggs for breakfast every morning...and that he was put together by the same people who constructed Stonehenge...

...all we know is, he's called the RIB.''

Monday 26 January 2015

Not troubling the BBRC

A few bits from the last few days:

[Common] Chiffchaff, 1 at Potton STW on Saturday and again on Sunday. I tried my damnedest to bend it into a Dusky/ Hume's/ tristis.

Tawny Owl at The Lodge this morning, and shortly after, a zero-carbon Goosander at New Road, Sandy.

I can't recall the last year that I managed to year-tick Chiffchaff and Blackcap before Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, but that's what has happened this year.

Nine Tree Sparrows at Vicarage Farm, Potton, are the highlight of my year so far...last seen at this site seven weeks ago, when there were only three.

Good luck all. The February doldrums are just around the corner.


Tuesday 20 January 2015

Duck Hunt Bonus Birds

This is a bit of a catch up from the weekend, as I'm actually being made to work for a living this week. I've also been unable to upload images, so this is a bit of a test to see if I can get it to work.

The Duck Hunt on Sunday threw up a decent (for me anyway) addition to the SFYL in the form of a Water Rail, which was the first time I've had one at Chicksands but it was calling only, so I'll have to go and hide in the bushes to see if it will come out of the reeds. Incidentally, this is on a grotty little pond, practically right next to our office, that doesn't look like it's worth a second look but it was also where a Ring-necked Duck was found by a good friend of mine over 10 years ago now and I can remember seeing it paddling about not 10 feet away from us, so I always make a point of having a quick look when I go past now.

After Chicksands, I moved on to do counts at the Airman Pit and Henlow Pond and it was between these that I noticed "something unusual" apparently falling into the field next to the A600. A look through the bins revealed a Peregrine that had just taken down a prey item, so another bonus that I'd never have seen on any other Sunday morning. It was disturbed by walkers after about 10 minutes of plucking and feeding on the ground and gave a brief opportunity for a record shot as it circled the remains of its prey, before heading off in the direction of Meppershall Water Tower.


Stoner; 3 years in the making.............

Firstly, I'd like to welcome our new participants and say a hearty 'hello' to the old guard. I would also like to mark the passing of dearly beloved Steve and John from the competition (you will be sadly missed).............

(respectful pause- not longer than a few seconds though)

Anyway, A bike ride around the tracks to the North of Upper Caldecote finally produced!
After saying 'this is a great place for Stonechat' to myself for the last 3 years and countless visits, one female type finally obliged in an area of set aside just South of Beeston.
So that's what SFYListing is all about really. Try out some of the less fashionable places- you never know your luck! Next time it could be a Great Grey Shrike..................

I have submitted a field sketch for your appraisal- as instructed by Richard.

Stonechat- Looking at my sketch, it is very obviously a 1st winter female.

A few trips out lately, including the Duck Hunt haven't exactly set pulses racing and just to clarify to the newbies-

Merlin at Broom GPs- seen, but not admissible due to it being a regular feature in the exact same area for as many years as I care to remember.

Pink-footed Goose at Broom GPs- seen, but not admissible for the same reasons; this bird, in a similar way to the droopy-winged Harold individual is present over Winter with the ever present Greylag flock.

Good luck to all and happy finding in the knowledge that we WILL have a new winner this year.


Monday 19 January 2015

Canada... or Leighton Buzzard

Always nice to get Pintail on a Bedfordshire self-found year list. Did not get one on the duck hunt this weekend but fortunately had found this male at Grovebury previous weekend on my first bird finding trip of the year when I was actually looking for gulls coming into roost. Managed this record shot of the bird with Canadas and a presumed feral Ross's Goose suggesting a Nearctic scene rather than Beds. Good luck to all this years SFYLers!

Thursday 15 January 2015

Two weeks in

And we're off with some keen birding.  Three new participants challenging themselves as well as the old lags.  Talking of which, we bid goodbye to Steve B and John L this year who have decided to take some time off - hopefully back next year.

Fairly standard lists from myself, Roger, Jim and Darren - a few nice winter birds seen but its still a bit warm for new proper rares.

Prizes go to Matt for failing to see anything so far - an amazing feat given that he lives in Bedfordshire and has a house with windows and everything...

Luton-based Andy Grimsey has perhaps not gone birding yet, and has a very good list considering where he lives of four (doubling the town list so far recorded since 1946).

Off blog rumours are rife that Martin has been birding and he's been seen twitching so must have added at least a Coot.

Stephen T is hamstrung because his spreadsheet is not working but no doubt he's got some Parus majors on his list.

Play nice, play by the rules.  Any questions or "Can I really count it?" queries, send them in.

Look forward to some fine blog posts.

RIB (J, J and Executioner)

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Outings this week so far.

I haven't seen anything decent (except Merlin) at GLE / GLW for ages, so didn't expect much during the Sunday dog walk. I'm not just a rubbish birder but also a lazy, colour blind, rubbish birder, which means I usually can't be bothered to look through all the Tufties etc on GLW. However, one duck looked a bit different, so the scope had a rare outing from the bag and revealed a female Goldeneye. I know that these are a fairly common winter visitor to the county but this was a first in Beds for me, so happy days. I'm also quite happy that the picture theme for this blog is "record shots", as that's all that was on offer with the duck being pretty much in the middle of the water. However, I'm having trouble trying to add pictures to my posts, so any advice would be gratefully received (fixed - had to start using Chrome, instead of IE). 

A Green Sandpiper over the road on GLE was also nice to see, as I've not seen any waders (less Golden Plover and Lapwing) down there for ages also.

Roxton today to see the GWE and then on the way home I actually did a double take and turned the car around to go back and see 2 Egyptian Geese at a pheasant feeder, just to the SW of Roxton village.

77 species onto BirdTrack so far for the year, which isn't a massive amount, but all within 30 minutes of the house.


Sunday 11 January 2015

BUBO Listing

I have never been a competitive lister, and until Friday, was not even sure what my UK and Bedfordshire lists stood at, but I think this website is nearly as brilliant as our own:

You can enter life and year lists, and even choose self-found totals, providing dates and locations, etc. So far, I am the only person to have entered details of my County Self-found Life List, which could be described as somewhere between 'below average' and 'shocking.' so it would be great if others followed suit. Complete transparency - we like that.

There are also site lists available - Broom GPs, The Lodge, Blows Downs etc.

I could even make enquiries about linking self-found life lists to the blog, if others agree.


Saturday 10 January 2015

First post

I thought I'd better do a quick intro first, so that the regulars know who this interloper is. I'm the one you see around Broom GPs with the 2 Spaniels, usually asking you guys daft questions about the birds you are watching. I don't really consider myself to be a birder but have somehow found myself becoming a Beds Bird Club member, owning a scope etc, "popping down" (not twitching) to see smart birds such as the Lesser Grey Shrike and Penduline Tit and putting most of my sightings onto BirdTrack. I put all of this down to the patience and kindness shown by you lot, so it's your own fault that I've now turned up here.

Anyway, I do occasionally trip across the odd decent bird, so thought I'd take up Richard on his offer for more people to join in with the 2015 SFYL.  

My first submission concerns today's ramblings, which centred around the Sandy Smith NR / Chicksands area, where I was hoping to pick up a couple of year ticks (remember I'm not a birder but I go out to do stuff like this and blame it entirely on BirdTrack, which becomes a bit addictive after a while). I was hoping for Stonechat, which seemed to be everywhere up until 31 Dec but I haven't seen one since and of course GGS, which I'm sure is (or are - but that's another story) still about in the general area. As always seems to be the case when you actually go looking for anything I didn't see any of these but didn't come away feeling disappointed at all, as I managed a fairly decent haul of 37 species, with a hunting male Merlin and a Woodcock being the best of the lot. I've had glimpses of what I thought was a Merlin in this area before but have never been 100% sure until today, so feel happy to put it out there now.
You'll be relieved to know that future posts will be much shorter and hopefully with pictures.

Not seen a Little Egret yet this year

..but I'll take this for starters...

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Slow start

Only one day of birding so far this year, and that was a pleasant but very normal lunchtime walk at the Lodge.  Just a few common species added (and birdtracked).

Friday 2 January 2015


Today (02 January), I stumbled across two Stonechats at Deepdale, Potton.

Question...I have not seen Stonechat there since 28 November 2014, despite walking the site at least twice weekly. Does it count as self-found?

Although it fits the rules of the game - Punkbirder (time category), if that is indeed what we are adhering to -  my own personal view is that it does not quite fit the spirit of the challenge...

Wishing you all a record self-finding year. I had my record self-finding year last year, which is a bit of a bugger. For as the saying goes...''history shows that the moment of your greatest triumph is also the point to which the onset of your decline can be traced.''

I made that up, but I am still not optimistic for 2015. ;-)