Thursday, June 24, 2004

FOOTIE Portugal 6 - 5 England (on pens, 2-2 after extra time)
A blustery 24 hours or so out here in the flatlands with most of the trees round the houses bent double!

This morning saw a strange female Pheasant appear in the garden. Apart from the dark colour, it is heavily barred all over - unlike a normal Common Pheasant which is spotted or marked with chevrons. Even the belly is barred. It was also quite a bit larger than the female Common Pheasant present at the same time. Is this a variant tenebrosus? Or just another hybrid (as most Pheasants are)?

strange female Pheasant

Andy, my neighbour, popped round to tell me had come across a large chick sat in the middle of one of the nearby farm droves. We nipped down to the spot and there in the middle of the drove was a young Kestrel sitting on the ground about 10 meters from its nest on top of a nearby telegraph pole. It was clearly a victim of the high winds we've had over the last day.

It was in a very open position and certainly prone to any farm vehicles using the drove, so I decided to move it in to the edge of the sugar beet field right below its nest. Here it was sheltered from the wind and also had some shade. It was a noisy bugger, so its folks won't have any problems finding it!

Kestrel chick - victim of high winds

The sixth brood of Tree Sparrows appeared in the garden with two recently fledged young begging for food from their parents. This brings the tally of 16 young fledged to date from the six pairs I had estimated are present.

I looked up the date the first yound appeared last year (30 May) and this years first fledglings were seen in the garden on 1 June! Run like clockword my garden dickies do! Second broods appeared from 21 July last year so a few weeks yet before any more new youngsters are seen.

A baby Pheasant has spent much of the day in the garden. Its nearly the size of a Collared Dove and it seems to be purposely feeding among them so blend in!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

FOOTIE Czech Rep 2 - 1 Germany
Hooorraayyyy! The Gerries are out! Not that they didn't deserve it. Got to be the worst german team I've ever seen - even worse than the team England thrashed 5-1 (oh the joy!). The Czechs are gonna take some stopping - they outclassed the Germans with nine of the starting 11 being their backup squad members! Can anyone stop them?

Latvia 0 - 3 Holland
Holland continued were they left off with the Czechs and totally outplayed the Latvians. Will the Dutch stay friends to see it through to the end? I think not.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

FOOTIE Denmark 2 - 2 Sweden
And the Italians go home. Oh what a shame. They even had the cheek to accuse the Danes and Swedes of colluding to obtain the only scoreline that guaranteed the Italians exit. Err.... I think they might think again when they see the viddy - crackin game with some top keeper action. Come on Italy - fairs fair - you simply ain't good enough this time so pack your bags and take the foul mouthed Totti back home with you.

Monday, June 21, 2004

FOOTIE Croatia 2 - 4 England
Wow! What a night. Well done lads. Funnily enough, as soon as Croatia scored that early goal I relaxed for the first time in for any of the England games. I knew then that we had to turn it on and go and win the game - no frickin use playin for a draw! And they did the business. Bring on the hosts!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

FOOTIE Holland 2 - 3 Czech Rep
One of the best games I have ever seen. Football can still be 'the beautiful game' and it was a shame there had to be a loser. Come on Holland! You can still do it! And am I the only Man U fan that hardly recognised Poborsky? At 32 he is the player he should have always been - just at Old Trafford he hardly ever showed up.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

FOOTIE England 3 - 0 Switzerland
The result was all that mattered. It must have been baking in the stadium for the lads, so it wasn't surprising the performance wasn't that strong. Away the lads on Monday when we need to go out to beat Croatia - please don't go for the draw we need!

Sunday, June 13, 2004

FOOTIE France 2 - 1 England
What can I say. Before the match I didn't really believe that we could beat France, so leading one nil going into added time I was cock-a-hoop. We were mugged but unlike others, I don't think England did play better than France. They pinned us back in our own box for most of the second half and it was simply a matter of time - even in added time. England played well - but in the end, a lack of concentration and discipline in the last minutes cost us the game. Is this a peculiar English thing, or do other national teams put their country through this agony. Gutted!

Thanks to Ian and Daphs for hosting our anti-climatic night and for a terrific lamb roast dinner - a rare treat!

The only thing more important than football is birds, and what an antidote to arrive back home after England's defeat to hear two Quail calling by the house whilst putting the moth trap out. One bird was so close I could hear its pre-singing 'grrr-grrr' call - bloody fantastic! Garden tick no.98.

Quail singing by the house

Saturday, June 12, 2004

A lazy morning included emptying the moth trap. The catch included a few new garden firsts - Common Footman and Peppered Moth.

A couple of Mullein plants have popped up in the front garden - huge things with big yellow flower heads. The larger of the two plants has an impressive caterpillar infestation, with the plant slowly disappearing into the chomping little wiggly caterpillars - or not so little when they've had their fill! The insects are of course, Mullein moth caterpillars - aptly named.

Mullein moth caterpillar

Whilst photographing the caterpillars a dragonfly skimmed by my head and in to the garden - the second Black-tailed Skimmer in a week. A teneral insect with glistening bronze wings.

In the evening Katie Fuller and I joined Jonathan Taylor to help with the third in the RSPB's series of Nene Washes walks. We met about 20 people at Eldernell and wandered along the south barrier bank as far as Lord's Holt. We hadn't got more than a few yards when we were stopped in our tracks by a Barn Owl sat on top of a nearby telegraph pole. But that wasn't quite the star. The squeaking young Long-eared Owl which flopped around the wash! Fantastic! We also squeezed in a Hobby hawking over Eldernell Pit at the end. Good evening.

We left the Washes and decided to check in on Black Bush to see if last weeks Quail was still there. And it was! No sooner had we pulled up, it was calling in the same field as last week. Terrific!

Arriving home I topped upthe feeders in the dark to be startled by a Curlew calling nearby. Only the second record I've had out here in 18 months, and an unusual record for June.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

BIRDING - in the Brecks
KAF and I had been talking for a few days about going over to see the Golden Orioles at Lakenheath, so tonight was meant to be the night. But . . . we didn't get away on time so rather than abort the evening, we just rejigged and headed in to the Brecks for some old hunting ground stomping for me (an ex Breck resident).

We did a couple of Breck heaths looking for Stonies without any joy (not a great time to look for them mid-June), but we did have a great evening with a family party of Woodlarks (Woodies), a hunting Hobby, a couple of Little Owls and a young Fox wandering around one heath being watched closely by all the rabbits stood up on tippy-toes. Aagh.

A quick nip in to a garage to refuel with . . .chocolate! Wow! Cadbury's Fingers of Fudge - only 15p! What a bargain!! And Curly Wurly only 20p! gotta have those eh!

First two courses over, we head off in to the forest for the main course - Goatsucker (Nightjar) with a generous side helping of Timberdick (Woodcock). Nice!

We arrived at my faithful site of old. I had brought KAF here last year for her first evening of Goatsucking action - and what an evening that was! Would tonight match it?

Within minutes we had Timberdicks overhead. Great start. We wandered up the track to a crackin open clearing and right on cue a bird was calling (not churring) and a male drifted lazily across the clearing. It was still very good light so we could see all the cryptic grey and black plumage and the wing spots looking a lot duller in the light - they almost glow in the dark! We spent an hour wandering the track and had up to six 'churring' males and quite a few really good flight views.

One bird was churring continuously quite close to us and ended with it's 'wing-clapping' display. When it started churring again I waited until it stopped and immediately mimicked the wing-claps. Like a shot it flew towards us, circled us in a tight arc and to investigate us, then drifted off back into the darkness. Great stuff!

The Timberdicks continued to give great views all evening, and as darkness took hold, a couple where chasing each other around calling their high pitched squeaks almost in a frenzy.

When you watch Timberdicks look out for their leg actions when they make their throaty 'grrr-grrr' calls. Crackin' birds!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Something outside caught my eye. Looking up I see a mdedium-sized dragonfly land on the California Poppies outside the window. I can't quite see it from my desk, so I nip out and find it is a fresh female Black-tailed Skimmer - garden tick! I managed a couple of quick snaps as it waved around in the wind, but as I was trying to move various stems from in front of hte drag, it took flight and was gone in a flash.

Black-tailed Skimmer female

Monday, June 07, 2004

Another good night mothing. As well as loads of White Ermines, a few additions to the other night including Thistle Ermine, Poplar Grey and Small Clouded Brindle and Calamatropha paludella. The stars of the show tho were the two hawkmoths caught -

Eyed Hawkmoth

Privet Hawkmoth

Sunday, June 06, 2004

News of a Black Tern had KAF and me belting up to Welland Bank Pits - how much time av I had to spend at this god-forsaken place this spring! Sorry Lincs birders - but its about time we managed to found you guys something in this part of the Peterbirder area to come and look at. I'm tryin - believe me!

Anyway, KAF neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeded Black Tern for the area and thankfully, by the time we got there (only 2.5 hours after first sighting - hardly belted up there did we!), little blackie tern was still showing brilliantly. We enjoyed it for about an hour with a first-summer (2CY) hobby hawking for insects which was almost on constant view as well. A few drag year ticks as well - Quad, Bl-tailed Skimmer and Common Blue Dam.

Back home I discovered this beastie on the inside of the back door.

It's only a bleedin Horntail (or wood wasp) - just look at the size of its hooja-madoober! That's one ellava ovipositor eh. Just what the 'eck a Horntail is doin in the fens I don't know. Its an inhabitant of pine woods but has been known to emerge from timbers in new houses. Maybe someone nearby has just has a load of new timbers delivered and it popped out. The nearest pine woods are some way away I can tell ye.

Mikey Wee disturbed the evening with a call from Blackbush. 'What the frick is he doin trespessin on my patch at 9.30 at night!'. Well, he was at Priors and with naff all there (what's new for 2004 - the demise of Prior's Fen that's what) he decided to do a bit of speculative listening on the great Blackbush for . . . Quail. And it paid off! He pinned two birds down west of the drove north of Cambers, and by 10.30 I had bagged at least one of em as well as a couple of rasping Grey Parts (grapes to you and me). Nice work Mikey - even if it was past your bedtime!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Set the moth trap overnight and was pleased with the catch - not too many for this rusty mother! Species caught (in no particular order) - White Ermine, Bright-line Brown-eye, The Spectacled, Common Wainscot, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Buff Ermine, Dark Arches, Small Waved Umber, Small Dotted Wave, Marbled Minor, Heart & Dart, Large Nutmeg, Rustic Shoulder Knot, Vine's Rustic, The Nutmeg.

White Ermine(left) Buff Ermine (right)

Spent the rest of the morning putting up an anti-cat fence around the border by the feeders. My neighbour's pussy has taken to hiding in the dense herbage and pouncing on my dickies - not on! So a few stakes and some chicken wire will do the trick. I've lifted the bottom edge in a couple of places to allow the local Hedgehogs access.

The afternoon was spent - what else - watching the footie! England 6 Iceland 1. Hey - you can only beat the guys put in front of you. A nice jolly heart-warming before our boys go and fail in Portugal!I'm not one of those who get carried away after such false victories - no shouts of 'bring on the Frenchies' from me. Nuff respect to our blue-clad rivals we will face next Sunday. They are collectively the best team in Europe - but as WC02 proved, they can have their off days. Let's hope next week they have one then!

The evening was spent owl watching on the Nene Washes with KAF. Mikey Wee had help lead the previous evening RSPB walk and they had enjoyed an owlfest, with Barn, Tawny and two juvvy LEOs! Bloody hell! So KAF and I wandered down there this evo (bumping into Tom Bailey and family). The Barn Owl was a cinch as usual, and second up was this cracking Tawny sat out in the open in the evening sun!

Tawny Owl

Now if owt shows the beauty of digiscoping - this has got to be it! Stuff all that hand-held nonsense. I'd like to see a shot of this owl hand-held when firing at an eight of a second! An adapter might be slower at times, but comes into its own when a shake free shot is required! Frickin brilliant or what!

We had to hang around to near dark for the LEOs and eventually got views of both young in the nearby trees. Not great, but enough to see the fluffy duffers with their little ear tufts. Great stuff.

Friday, June 04, 2004

I've spent most of the morning on the phone which is a great opportunity to gaze out of the window and watch the birdies! Makes a nice change to the PC monitor.

The weather has turned and the sky is now really grey and cold, Swifts have been over the garden most of the morning and the garden has been chocked with birds.

The new brood of Treeps took to the Sombrero for the first time. They really didn't know what to make of water. They sat nervously on the edge watching the adults and other birds bathing. They each would fly down and on their feet touching the water they would about abort and jump back o the edge! Every time a larger bird such has a Blackbird came to the Sombrero they would tumble off the side into the border! Bless. Well, they eventually took the plunge and rather pathetically quivered their wings trying to copy the parents - still some way to go tho. I don't think they realize the wings have to get wet - there's more to that just standing ankle deep in water and shaking your wings!

A pretty sleepness night saw me getting up at 4.05 am! I'm crap at getting up normally, so I took the chance to get straight out and I was on the washes by 4.30 am.

On arriving at Eldernell both Tawny and Little Owls were calling excitedly and a Barn Owl was quartering the marsh. What a start. I disturbed a couple of Turtle Doves from the hedgerow and walking west along the south barrier bank, the place started to fill with song - Robin, Wren, Whitethroat, Song Thrush, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackbird, Blackcap - it just went on and on. Then the first of four male Cuckoos started up and things got a little heated when the first of two females arrived on site. Two males were going beserk, sat only a few yards apart on fence posts before chasing each other, chasing the female, chasing Blackbirds.

The RSPB reserve was quite misty first thing, but as the sun gained height and strength it soon burnt off and the Snipe started drumming. No other waders were displaying, with the Lapwings and Redshank spending most of their time chasing the eight crows around. I saw at lest three different crows make off with eggs (prob Lapwing).

I spent two hours in the washes before returning home via Blackbush picking up four calling Grey Partridge, a shedload of Corn Bunts and some Yellow Wags. A quick whiz down to Conquest House was fruitful with Spot Fly and Blackcap. Park House Farm saw the first of the Lapwing chicks on the fen this year (quite large). Pulling up at home the garden was already full of birds including a third brood (of 3) Treeps, more juv House Spuggies, Turts and Yammers. The Jackdaw was soon back on the seed feeder.

Quite a few Swifts around this morning at Eldernell, Coates and Whittlesey (like yesterday around the older parts of Peterborough).

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Woke up to find the mole dead on the lawn. Shucks. Couldn't see any signs of attack, just plenty of signs of moley trying to find a soft spot to burrow into on the lawn. God knows why he kicked the bucket tho.

Ran the moth trap overnight - first time in an age. I just don't get the time to go through a trap full of moths, especially being so bloody rust and having to check most bleeders with the book! Got a handful of chaps tho - Poplar Hawk-moth and two White Ermines being the pick of the catch.

Poplar Hawkmoth

Also couple of Common Wainscots, Middle-barred Minor and a handful still in the fridge to ID this evening.

The dickies are getting through shedloads of feed now that there are young in the garden. treeps, House Spugs, Blackbird, Greenfinks, Robin - all now with young in the garden and getting through around 12+ litres of seed a day! That's one hungry group of chicks I've got out there!

When I went out to fill up the feeders earlier the air was full of bird song - Whitethroat (banging out from the nearby line of Elms), Song Thrush (still doing his Teal, Whimbrel and car alarm calls!), Turt purring, and the rather anonymous chipping of the Treeps! Lapwings were mobbing something by the sounds of it - they must have young as well. I'll have to get on to the fen tomorrow to see if what is and isn't about.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Treeps, Turts and Yammers - that's all! With a garden this good its little wonder I can't be arsed going out some days! Still, work and this goddamn cold is keeping me cooped up. I did manage to add mole to the mammal list though as it ran across the drive!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Work! What a shock! And with a headful of snot! First thing is to go and collect the PC which has been at the knackers yard for the last week being checked over - clean bill of health! Now that's a surprise.

Sat back at my desk its nice to get reacquainted with my garden birdies. The first broods of Tree Sparrows are out - broods of four and two - and with up to four more pairs out there, it might be a bumper crop of young treeps this year! Hope so. Turtle Doves are still much in evidence, with four birds in the garden for most of the day. There's no chasing and displaying going on, so I presume these are now all males with the females happily settled on eggs. Turts can travel up to 10km for food, so these guys aren't necessarily that local. At least a couple probably are, since I have a pair in residence by the house and another pair at least on the other side of the fen.

Mr Great Spotted Woody is still here - hammering away at my nuts! (Oh er). I still find it staggering that I can have what is a near resident Great Spot in the garden out here in the fens and some birders in suburban Peterborough, next to prime pecker woodlands, rarely get them! What's that about?